Judge rules LimeWire intentionally infringed

A federal judge has ruled that the file-sharing service LimeWire “intentionally encouraged direct infringement” by its users, handing a key victory to record labels in their efforts to restrict the activities of peer-to-peer networks.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment to 13 record labels, which charged that LimeWire enabled and assisted its users to commit copyright infringement and depended on such activity as part of its business. Wood wrote in her 59-page ruling, issued on Tuesday, that there was “overwhelming evidence” that LimeWire “engaged in purposeful conduct that fostered infringement.”

LimeWire was founded in 2000 by its chairman, Mark Gorton, and boasts of having the most popular peer-to-peer file sharing application, with more than 50 million unique monthly users and about 5 million active users at any given moment.

Mitch Bainwol, chairman-CEO of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, said in a statement that Wood’s ruling is an “extraordinary victory for the entire creative community. The court made clear that LimeWire was liable for inducing widespread copyright theft.”

He said that following the Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Grokster case, in which the highcourt ruled that file-sharing sites could be held liable for the infringing activities of their users, LimeWire “instead thumbed its nose at the law and creators.”

“The court’s decision is an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce,” he said.

Wood also found that Gorton was liable for LimeWire’s “inducement of infringement,” writing that the evidence showed that he “directed and benefited” from many of the company’s activities.

LimeWire CEO George Searle said in a statement that the company “strongly opposes the court’s recent decision. LimeWire remains committed to developing innovative products and services for the end-user and to working with the entire music industry, including the major labels, to achieve this mission.”

Wood has scheduled a June 1 status conference, where the RIAA is expected to raise the issue of injunctive relief and damages.

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