The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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LimeWire down, facing legal repercussions

By Taylor Dobbs, News Staff

Anyone looking to LimeWire for the new Taylor Swift album will be sorely disappointed when they open the software, which has been disabled.

News illustration/Rebecca Pravda

The shutdown is the result of an injunction (PDF) issued last month by a Manhattan district court judge to Lime Group, parent company of LimeWire, forcing it to turn off the program’s functionality immediately.

“The truth of the matter is – and I know this is a great disappointment to most college students – when you’re taking music that is copyrighted and you’re downloading it in its entirety, not just sampling … it’s pretty much a copyright violation,” said professor Laurel Leff, who teaches media law at Northeastern.

The Oct. 26 ruling adds LimeWire to a growing list of services brought down by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other entertainment industry organizations.

The services, such as Napster and Grokster, use peer-to-peer technology, a system that allows users to share files by connecting almost directly with other users’ computers.

Because of the ongoing crackdown on music piracy, many students have shied away from illegal services such as LimeWire.

Punishment for illegal downloading can be thousands of dollars in fines per song, and in the most severe cases, prison time.

“I’m not going to jail for downloading music,” said Anthony Grimaldi, a senior computer science major. “That’s the stupidest thing to go to jail for.”

Praful Mathur, also a senior computer science major, said he had already moved from LimeWire to services like YouTube, Pandora, and Bittorrent for his music.

Former Northeastern student Shawn Fanning created Napster in a campus dorm room in 1999. Fanning later dropped out to run the service full-time.

While many students regularly use services like Fanning’s, the services tend to be legally questionable.

Leff contrasted these downloading habits with fair use, a legal provision that allows use of various types of media if they are taken in part and put into a new context, usually academic. Fair use is a common defense in cases against services like LimeWire and Napster.

The RIAA doesn’t see anything fair about users downloading music for free for personal use, its chairman said in a statement.

“Unlike other [peer-to-peer] services that negotiated licenses, imposed filters, or otherwise chose to discontinue their illegal conduct … LimeWire instead thumbed its nose at the law and creators,” said Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the RIAA, in a May 12, 2010 statement.

Journalism professor Dan Kennedy, who writes the blog Media Nation about the state of the media, said he saw LimeWire as the next step for an industry trying to throttle piracy.

“Targeting LimeWire follows logically from a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that authorities may shut down file-sharing services if their main purpose is to encourage copyright infringement,” Kennedy said in an e-mail.

In the 2005 case MGM v. Grokster, the Supreme Court officially stated that “one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright … is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties.”

The ruling against LimeWire, issued by United States District Judge Kimba Wood, followed the same lines as the Grokster ruling. The injunction stated that LimeWire was “liable for inducement of copyright infringement.”

“There is some sense that you can’t really have law in the cyber-environment, that the technology can always keep ahead of the law,” Leff said. “There’s obviously some truth to that, but almost all regulation – and obviously you see this with finance too – is not 100 percent perfect.”

Lime Group isn’t closing the door on LimeWire even though the current version of the software has been disabled.

“While this is not our ideal path, we hope to work with the music industry in moving forward,” the parent company said in the official press statement posted on their website, adding that it hopes to embrace the changes it needs to make and work with the music industry in the future.

Lime Group’s website already mentions a new product.

“Our team of technologists and music enthusiasts is creating a completely new music service that puts [users] at the center of your digital music experience,” said a statement posted on Lime Group’s website, adding that the company will be “sharing more details about our new service … in the future.”

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