After a four-year legal battle, the popular file-sharing website LimeWire has been shut down for good.
A New York federal court ruled against the website last month, saying that its file-sharing process had assisted in an enormous amount of copyright infringement. The ruling came at the end of a four-year battle between LimeWire and the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents a number of record labels.
Founded in 2000 by Wall Street trader Mark Gorton, LimeWire allowed its 50 million users to search for and share copyrighted material. The website remains functional, but on Oct. 26 it posted a notice citing the court order that had restricted it from distributing its file-sharing software.
Georgetown students were still surprised by the verdict.
“I guess I probably could have expected it would happen eventually, after Napster years ago and everything else that’s being shut down,” Andrew Levine (COL ’11) said. “But I didn’t see it coming anytime soon.”
For Mike Garza (COL ’12), the shutdown also came as a surprise, since he had assumed that the website would have worked out its legal issues by now.
“I figured with the whole Napster situation that LimeWire and other downloading hosts would have had all their bases covered,” Garza said.
Napster, the grandfather of MP3 sharing, was created in 1999 by Northeastern University student Shawn Fanning. At its height, it claimed over 100 million users. After a court order, the website went offline, and its name and logo were bought after the company went bankrupt. Since 2004 it has resurfaced as an online MP3 store.
For music lovers, sites like LimeWire and its predecessor, Napster, made it easy to find and acquire singles but not necessarily whole albums. Still, some former users said they had stopped using file-sharing sites like LimeWire years before the lawsuit because the programs had caused problems with their computers. For many, the ease with which the files could be acquired seemed to be a cause for nervousness.
“At least with iTunes you have a sense of where the songs come from,” Levine said. “On LimeWire, it’s just all from a jumble of cyberspace, and probably from some Russian hacker who’s making a fortune on this.”
Several students were shocked by the shutdown. Most were not worried about downloading music in the future, since they can still get music from other places like FrostWire.
Another file-sharing software program, FrostWire was actually designed by members of the LimeWire open source community, and it functions similarly to LimeWire. As of right now, the site has not been shut down.
Artists contend that they lose money from such sites as FrostWire, while fans say that the artists simply gain more popularity. According to Garza, he can see both sides of the issue.
“I understand file-sharing from both standpoints. As a sharer you really don’t want to purchase an entire album for one song, so you download it. But as an artist and record company, you lose a lot of money with sites like LimeWire and FrostWire,” Garza said. “So, I guess I am undecided because I know I don’t want to pay for an entire album and listen to one song, but I completely understand it’s a business for the guys on the other side.”