Limewire Must Close After Four-Year Court Fight

Limewire's peer-to-peer fire-sharing service has been ordered shut down by a federal judge, ruling on a case filed by music-industry giants.

Limewire has been ordered to shut down by a federal judge who argues that the file-sharing service "intentionally encouraged direct infringement." By all appearances, this could represent the endgame of music companies' four-year effort to take Limewire offline.

Indeed, Limewire's Website seems dead, its landing page covered with a plus-sized legal notice: "Limewire is under a court-ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software. Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorization is illegal."

Meanwhile, Limewire executives attempted to put a positive spin on developments.

"The injunction applies only to the Limewire product. Our company remains open for business," George Searle, CEO of Limewire, wrote in an Oct. 26 posting on Lime Company's corporate Website. "We remain deeply committed to working with the music industry and making the act of loving music more fulfilling for everyone."

Searle added: "Our team of technologists and music enthusiasts is creating a completely new music service that puts you back at the center of your digital music experience." Details of that new music service, however, were not forthcoming in the blog post.

The court's take on Limewire seemed decidedly more negative. According to reports, Judge Kimba Wood, of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, said the Website "marketed itself to Napster users, who were known copyright infringers." A variety of interested parties, ranging from Sony Music Entertainment to Warner Bros. Records, had joined legal forces in the case against Limewire, which they jointly accused of facilitating widespread music theft.

Limewire even found itself broadsided over its security and file-sharing protocols by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which launched investigations in 2007 and 2009 into file sharing on peer-to-peer networks. In response, Limewire argued that it had reworked its service to address those concerns. Over the years, sensitive information such as social security numbers and banking data had managed to leak onto Limewire's network, raising the hackles of business executives and security experts.

Based on Searle's comments, Limewire could follow in the footsteps of Napster and attempt a rebirth as a legitimate digital-music portal. A Napster app comes pre-loaded with Google TV, with others available for iOS and Android devices. However, any new service would encounter substantial competition, not only from Napster, but from Apple iTunes and other media services as well.

Meanwhile, peer-to-peer networking-and the possible copyright violations that come with it-continues to thrive online.