Legal Top Stories

Music that is free is here to stay: LimeWire trial update

By | Published on Monday 9 May 2011


OK, so LimeWire may be liable for the copyright infringement it enabled its users to commit, but forcing the Lime Group and its founder Mark Gorton to pay the US record industry $1.4 billion in damages would be “unjust” and “wouldn’t change a thing”. Not my words, people, but the words of Joseph Baio, who, it might not surprise you to hear, is the attorney representing LimeWire in the final stage of their copyright infringement battle with the Recording Industry Association Of America.

As previously reported, LimeWire shut up shop late last year after US judge Kimba Wood ruled that the technology company was liable for the copyright infringement its P2P file-sharing software enabled. The record industry is now suing for $1.4 billion in damages, which is rather a lot less than some initially expected (partly due to restrictions put in place by Wood), but still a phenomenal sum of money. As also previously reported, Wood has also said Gorton is personally liable for any damages awarded if LimeWire itself isn’t able to pay (which it won’t be).

Kicking things off last week, reps for the US record industry said that file-sharing, and in particular LimeWire, was “largely to blame” for the 52% decline in music sales that have occurred in the last ten years. But according to CNET, Baio argued that that statement was very misleading. A multitude of things had contributed to the slump in record sales, he argued, citing emails and public statements from record industry execs that admitted the late nineties CD ripping phenomenon and the music companies’ own failure to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the internet at the start of the last decade were also to blame.

The legal man added that record sales had begun to slump before LimeWire really took off, and noted that if and when any one P2P service was shut down users found new ways to get free music online, presumably implying it was unfair to blame any one P2P provider for the desire among consumers to get their music for free. Reading from a memo from Warner Music chief Edgar Bronfman Jr, Baio concluded by saying “music that is free is here to stay”, adding that Bronfman himself had said, when observing that fact, “the consumer has won”. Consumers are to blame, presumably, not the tech men who provide them with tools that aid piracy.

The Recording Industry Association Of America’s legal rep, Glenn Pomerantz, focused in the main on Gorton’s apparent millions, telling the court the LimeWire man had deliberately set out to fill his bank accounts by enabling and encouraging others to infringe copyright. Gorton pretended to be ignorant of copyright law, Pomerantz said, and would refuse to comment on his service’s legality, but he knew exactly what he was doing, the law man claimed.

The case continues. Wood said she thought the trial could take up to four weeks.