updated 11:15 am EDT, Fri May 14, 2010
Editorial: LimeWire win more harm than good
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has claimed victory against LimeWire after a years-long battle. Earlier this week, a US District Court ruled that the file-sharing site was responsible for causing copyright infringement through its service.
"The following factors, taken together, establish that LW intended to encourage infringement by distributing LimeWire: (1) LW's awareness of substantial infringement by users; (2) LW's efforts to attract infringing users; (3) LW's efforts to enable and assist users to commit infringement; (4) LW's dependence on infringing use for the success of its business; and (5) LW's failure to mitigate infringing activities," Judge Kimba Wood ruled.
The result of the ruling could mean the end of LimeWire, a long-time file-sharing service that enjoyed nearly unprecedented success in the market. LimeWire CEO George Searle said in a statement that although his company is displeased by the ruling, it plans to work "with the entire music industry" going forward to deliver music-based services that appeal to listeners.
For its part, the RIAA couldn't be happier. The organization wrote in a statement that the "ruling is an extraordinary victory for the entire creative community." It went on to say that it was "gratified by the court's careful and thorough analysis of the facts and applicable law."
But whether or not the RIAA's victory will actually work in the music industry's favor is decidedly up for debate. According to LimeWire's Web site, the service is the world's most popular peer-to-peer sharing program in the world with over 50 million unique users every month. The software is downloaded to user desktops "hundreds of thousands of times every day and boasts millions of active users at any moment."
Realizing that, the RIAA might have stirred up a hornet's nest. With over 50 million active users -- the majority of which download music -- LimeWire has the kind of clout that could do significant damage to the music industry's bottom line. After all, if that many users are accustomed to downloading their favorite songs for free, why would they want to pay for music after the industry has effectively shut down their favorite service? If nothing else, the RIAA knew where 50 million people were allegedly downloading music illegally. As it works towards shuttering the service, it could have 50 million people stealing tracks on different services across the Web, thus making it harder to stop piracy.
This seems like the same old story with the RIAA. Even after taking down Napster, the RIAA witnessed increased music piracy. And by casting a group of users in one service to an untold number of services across the Web, it became more difficult for the RIAA to track pirates.
The RIAA should have worked with LimeWire to keep it open, allowed users to download tracks, and received a piece of the action from the P2P service. It would have been a victory for all parties involved, including artists.
Instead, the RIAA has annoyed a huge group of people who allegedly pirate music, and could soon force them to go elsewhere to continue downloading songs illegally.
How does that help the industry?
Piracy certainly shouldn't be endorsed. But the RIAA's practices shouldn't be celebrated either. If the organization wants to help the music industry, its leaders need to think a little before they act.
Editorial by Don Reisinger