Record companies sue LimeWire for breach of copyright

Thirteen record companies have sued P-to-P file-sharing system operator Lime Wire for copyright infringement, demanding damages that could total $476 million.

Thirteen U.S. record companies sued file-sharing system operator Lime Wire in a New York court on Friday, accusing it of music piracy and demanding damages that could top US$476 million.

In their filing, the record companies listed 3,173 of their recent tracks and 22 older tracks as examples of what they had found available for download using the LimeWire P-to-P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing software. They are demanding maximum statutory damages of US$150,000 for each recent work infringed, and US$30,000 for the older works.

Lime Wire is just the latest P-to-P file-sharing company to feel the entertainment companies' wrath. The media companies have already successfully sued Aimster, Napster (sued by A&M Records) and Grokster (sued by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios) -- all judgments cited in the Lime Wire filing.

Last month, the operator of the Kazaa file-sharing system, Sharman Networks Ltd., folded to entertainment industry pressure and agreed to pay at least US$100 million to four U.S. record companies and a further sum to motion picture companies to settle two copyright lawsuits. Sharman will filter the files shared on its system to prevent the unauthorized distribution of copyright files, it said.

The record industry has already persuaded a number of file-sharing services, including WinMX, Bearshare, Grokster, i2hub and Kazaa, to close or transform themselves into legal music services, said a spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, a body that represents the major U.S. record companies. However, Lime Wire has so far ignored the industry's approaches, leaving it with no choice but to sue, she said.

Lime Wire, its parent company Lime Group, its Chief Executive Officer Mark Gorton and its Chief Technology Officer Greg Bildson, all named in Friday's suit, know that piracy is going on because the company's LimeWire Pro software allows it to view what users are searching for, the record companies said.

The file-sharing network is devoted to the Internet piracy of sound recordings, they said in their filing with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The 13 companies, which claimed in the suit that they produce, manufacture, distribute, sell and license the vast majority of sound recordings in the U.S., are Arista Records; Atlantic Recording; BMG Music; Capitol Records; Elektra Entertainment Group; Interscope Records; Laface Records; Motown Record Company; Priority Records; Sony BMG Music Entertainment; UMG Recordings; Virgin Records America; and Warner Bros. Records.