Record Labels Slap LimeWire With Copyright-Infringement Suit

Suit seeks $150,000 for each song 'willfully infringed' by file-sharing program.

A consortium of the world's largest record labels has banded together to take on the architects behind LimeWire, and on Friday filed a joint copyright-infringement suit seeking $150,000 in damages for each song "willfully infringed" by the popular file-sharing program.

According to Reuters, the suit — filed in New York federal court — asserts LimeWire permits users to download music illegally. The filing is the latest in a series of lawsuits the music industry has filed to combat Internet piracy — an effort boosted by last year's Supreme Court ruling that content companies can take legal action against those who encourage copyright infringement (see "File-Sharing Networks Can Be Liable For Copyright Infringements, Supreme Court Rules").

The complaint was brought against LimeWire by Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music Group. In addition to naming LimeWire, the action lists Lime Group, LLC, the company's chief executive, Mark Gorton, and chief operating officer, Greg Bildson, as defendants.

The suit filed by record labels alleges LimeWire has profited from unlawful music downloads, calling the "scope of infringement ... massive," Reuters reports. The lawsuit further claims that LimeWire's executives "have had a direct financial interest in, and derived substantial benefit from, the infringement of [the labels'] copyrighted sound recordings."

Following Friday's filing, the Recording Industry Association of America — a trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry — released a statement, saying that "despite numerous efforts to engage LimeWire, the site's corporate owners have shown insufficient interest in developing a legal business model."

The complaint comes on the heels of last month's announcement that Kazaa, one of the most prevalent peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, had reached an out-of-court settlement with the world's largest music companies to resolve litigation brought against Kazaa's operators in the U.S. and Australia. As part of the settlement, Kazaa agreed to shell out more than $100 million to the labels, and vowed to introduce filtering technology to block illegal file trading (see "Kazaa Settles With Music Industry For $100 Million, Promises To Go Legit").

Last year, just four months after the Supreme Court ruled that peer-to-peer file-sharing services could be held liable for the infringing actions of its users, Grokster agreed to a permanent injunction barring direct or indirect infringement of copyrighted works (see "Grokster Settles With Music Industry"), and went on to stop offering and supporting its original software.

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.