Judge Rules LimeWire Liable for Its Users’ Rampant Copyright Infringement

A judge ruled today to move forward with the case against LimeWire, one of the biggest peer-to-peer downloading sites in recent history. Turns out a little checkbox isn’t enough to remove liability.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “LimeWire? Didn’t that go out of fashion years ago in favor of BitTorrent?” Turns out the courts don’t let possible copyright offenders sneak out of the limelight (bam! Welcome to PunTown, population: all of us!) as fast as fickle music sharers do. Ars Technica reports that a judge just granted summary judgment in agreement with the RIAA, which according to my extensive legal experience (read: Google University, with a minor in Wikipedia) means the case might not even move forward–the facts fall on one side clearly enough that a trial might not be necessary.


Judge Kimba Wood has just granted summary judgment against LimeWire, agreeing with the labels that the peer-to-peer company was liable for inducing copyright infringement. Turns out that asking LimeWire downloaders to check a box marked “I will not use LimeWire for copyright infringement” before proceeding doesn’t count as “meaningful efforts to mitigate infringement.”

Ars Technica spoke to a few legal experts who chimed in that after this ruling, it should be fairly easy to paint LimeWire as having adequate knowledge that illegal behavior was happening on their network, but having not taken adequate steps to stop or discourage it. Apparently the court dredged up some communications between LimeWire employees that indicate that they knew perfectly well what their service was being used for–something that’s obvious but without evidence is difficult to prove. 

With this knowledge of infringement, LimeWire still might have been okay if it had taken steps to mitigate the problem. But “the evidence reveals that LW has not implemented in a meaningful way any of the technological barriers and design choices that are available to diminish infringement through file-sharing programs, such as hash-based filtering, acoustic fingerprinting, filtering based on other digital metadata, and aggressive user education.”

Limewire, for what it’s worth, said they “strongly oppose” the court’s decision, and will attempt to defend themselves further as the case proceeds. But summary judgment is a major blow for LimeWire–this isn’t looking good for them.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.