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Movie studios call off legal action against LimeWire

By | Published on Wednesday 6 November 2013


The US movie industry has called off its legal efforts to squeeze $200 million out of defunct file-sharing company LimeWire, Torrentfreak has reported, possibly because the litigation was going to be more involved, and therefore more expensive, than initially hoped.

As much previously reported, the Recording Industry Association Of America pursued a long legal battle against LimeWire and its founder Mark Gorton after the company became the leading file-sharing operation based in the US jurisdiction after the demise of Napster, Grokster et al.

Gorton continued to battle on, despite the landmark ruling in the Grokster case making his legal case very weak, partly (certainly in latter years) because he thought he could persuade the major labels to do a deal in order to participate in a legit LimeWire digital music service that was in development.

But the major labels – via the Recording Industry Association Of America – were in no mood to forgive the years of copyright infringement LimeWire had enabled and profited from, and kept up the legal pressure until the US courts confirmed that the Lime Group was liable for the copyright infringement it facilitated.

Eventually Gorton gave up the fight, shut his business down, and paid the majors $105 million in damages. Settlements with the music publishers and the indie-label representing Merlin were also reached. But what about all the movies and TV shows illegally shared over the LimeWire network?

With the ruling from the RIAA case in hand, legal reps for America’s six major movie and TV studios last year launched their own litigation against what remains of the Lime company and Gorton himself, pushing for $200 million in damages. Hollywood’s legal men said this was an open and shut case – if the record industry’s copyrights were infringed by LimeWire, so were theirs – and a summary judgement should be passed to say as much.

LimeWire’s lawyers disagreed, though, arguing this should be treated as a separate case. Partly because this was about movies not records but, possibly more importantly, the specific infringements identified by the movie companies related to 2009 and 2010 when, the former file-sharing firm said, it had already altered its operations a little. Therefore the principles of the RIAA case couldn’t be simply applied with no further debate.

Quite why the movie industry requested its legal action be dismissed last week isn’t clear, though it seems likely that the studios had been hoping for a speedy resolution to this case, and a speedy pay day to accompany it, and possibly got cold feet when it looked likely that the judge wasn’t going to issue a summary judgement, resulting in a long, bitter and expensive legal battle. The studios may have also considered what the carcass of LimeWire and Gorton himself would be able to pay even if they won.