Late last night, the legal battles between LimeWire and the Recording Industry Association of America have reportedly ended. The P2P client will pay record labels $105 million in damages stemming from illegal file sharing.
This out-of-court settlement with 13 different record labels comes just days after the trial got underway. The RIAA has been seeking to take LimeWire down since the mid 2000's. They have always claimed that the LimeWire client, in allowing users to download digital music, has perpetrated "massive scale infringement."
Last May Federal District Court Judge Kimba Wood found LimeWire and its CEO Mark Gorton guilty of copyright infringment. In the fall, the RIAA won and injunction against LimeWire that forced the sharing service to shut 'er down. In December 2010, LimeWire went down for good.
The $105 million settlement that was reached last night is a far cry from the original damages claimed by the RIAA. In a mind-boggling claim, the RIAA said that damages caused by LimeWire could total $75 trillion. Let's put that in long form, just to remember what that looks like:
Judge Kimba Wood scoffed at that outrageously comical figure, saying:
“If plaintiffs were able to pursue a statutory damage theory predicated on the number of direct infringers per work, defendants’ damages could reach into the trillions...As defendants note, plaintiffs are suggesting an award that is ‘more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877.’”
The figure was later dropped to just over $1 billion in damages. This settlement is obviously significantly lower than either of those figures.
From RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol:
We are pleased to have reached a large monetary settlement following the court’s finding that both LimeWire and its founder Mark Gorton personally liable for copyright infringement. As the court heard during the last two weeks, LimeWire wreaked enormous damage on the music community, helping contribute to thousands of lost jobs and fewer opportunities for aspiring artists.
The significant settlement underscores the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in the Grokster case — designing and operating services to profit from the theft of the world’s greatest music comes with a stiff price. The resolution of this case is another milestone in the continuing evolution of online music to a legitimate marketplace that appropriately rewards creators. This hard fought victory is reason for celebration by the entire music community, its fans and the legal services that play by the rules.
Mark Gorton said that he was "pleased that this case has concluded," as quoted in The Guardian.
Last week, just as the LimeWire / RIAA trial was getting underway, CNET and parent company CBS were sued by "eccentric billionaire" Alki David for providing LimeWire and other P2P clients as downloads. The suit claims that in providing the software, CNET is complicit in illegal file sharing.
Although the service went offline in December of last year, I feel this signals actual closure to the saga. RIP, LimeWire.