Last week, a federal court found Limewire guilty of intentionally inducing widespread copyright infringement. Some reports claim the Limewire suit was a futile exercise if the goal is to stop the rampant copyright infringement that occurs on p2p networks. However, Limewire Group has found itself at the center of many dramas over the past few years and the possible shuttering of the company has been a long time coming.
The history of Limewire is not pretty, involving inadvertent filesharing, identity theft, Congressional hearings, and even leaked national security secrets. Filesharing first came to Congress’ attention in 2003 when two high-profile hearings were held on the subject. Distributors of peer-to-peer filesharing software responded to the criticism heaped upon them by launching a trade association, P2P United, of which Limewire was a founding member. The organization drafted a code of conduct, in part addressing inadvertent sharing, to which members promised to comply.
In 2007, the USPTO issued a report calling out Limewire for continuing to include features in its program to induce users to inadvertently share files on their computers. One could assume that this perpetuation of inadvertent sharing could be in order to make more popular –and probably copyrighted – media available to other users, thus making Limewire more appealing to users. This report led to yet another Congressional hearing, reactions of shock from the head of Limewire, and promises to do more to correct the problematic features identified. Again, Limewire proved itself to be untrustworthy, failed to fix the problematic features and, as a result, again was the source of more highly publicized instances of inadvertent sharing. The outcome? Another Congressional hearing in 2009 and the introduction of a bill to ban p2p software on government computers.
My list above is surely not exhaustive but it should give the reader a taste of how those at LimeWire Group have a solid track record of thumbing their nose at those who have the power to make life quite difficult for the company. And, while this certainly isn’t the end for online filesharing, it could mark the end of one very bad actor in the p2p sphere. Maybe the recent court ruling will give those who distribute p2p software pause regarding how their operations are run.
(For a more thorough analysis of Limewire and how it actively perpetuated inadvertent filesharing, see “Inadvertent File-Sharing Re-Invented: The Dangerous Design of LimeWire 5,” authored by my former coworker, and co-author of the above mentioned USPTO report, Tom Sydnor. Tom’s testimony at one of the Congressional hearings is also worth a read.)