A US District Court has ruled that file-sharing software supplier LimeWire has been inducing copyright infringement, in a decision that could see the end of the company.
"LW purposefully marketed LimeWire to individuals who were known to use file-sharing programs to share copyrighted recordings, or who expressed an interest in doing so," ruled Judge Kimba Wood in New York.
The judge also found that LimeWire's founder, Mark Gorton, had both induced and committed copyright infringement and engaged in unfair competition.
The case was brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) back in 2006. According to the RIAA, as many as 93 percent of files downloaded through LimeWire were copyrighted and unlikely to be licensed.
"Unlike other P2P services that negotiated licenses, imposed filters or otherwise chose to discontinue their illegal conduct following the Supreme Court's decision in the Grokster case, LimeWire instead thumbed its nose at the law and creators," said the RIAA in a statement.
"The court’s decision is an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce. By finding LimeWire's CEO personally liable, in addition to his company, the court has sent a clear signal to those who think they can devise and profit from a piracy scheme that will escape accountability."
Even LimeWire's supporters recognise that the company made little effort to reduce copyright infringement. Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge, called the decision "not unreasonable". But, he said, there were some troubling aspects to the court’s reasoning.
"In determining whether LimeWire induced infringement, the court properly looked at the company’s marketing and communications to users," he said.
"On the other hand, we are troubled when this court, or any court, tries to determine whether infringement has taken place based on the technical capabilities of a product or service. Our goal, as we and others expressed in an amicus brief, is that technological innovation should be protected."
The court did not set penalties for LimeWire, which says that it fully intends to stay in business.