“If file-sharing copyrighted songs is against the law, why is LimeWire still operating?” Students have asked this question countless times, and countless times I’ve answered it. There are no copyright police; copyright holders must pursue civil lawsuits to remedy claims of copyright infringement; they must prove their claims in court; civil litigation is slow. Some imagine that all a copyright holder need do to shut down a file-sharing site is to show the court a copy of the decision shutting down Napster. It’s not that simple, efficient, quick, or inexpensive.
Students can discard the question because yesterday a federal judge ordered LimeWire “to disable [its] ‘searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality.'” This injunction does not end file-sharing, of course. It moves the RIAA’s focus to its next litigation target.
Discussing copyright law and file-sharing over the years I’ve lost track of how many times students have asked “what about Limewire? Why does it still exist?” The answer has always been “because a court hasn’t shut it down yet.” While a court still hasn’t enjoined Limewire from operating, it took a giant step in that direction yesterday. Federal district court Judge Kimba Wood (why didn’t may parents name me Kimba?) granted various of the plaintiff record companies’ motions for summary judgment in their four-year old copyright infringement suit against Limewire, ruling they had induced users’ copyright infringement and engaged in vicarious copyright infringement, among other things. The court also held Limewire’s founder Mark Gorton personally liable, saying he “directed and benefited from many of the activities that gave rise to LW’s liability.” The 57-page opinion is here. And I have the first post-semester case to include in the 2010-2011 version of my Internet Law Casebook.