A federal judge has issued an injunction against LimeWire that essentially puts the music file-sharing site out of business, five months after it lost a copyright-infringement suit filed by the record industry.
U.S. district judge Kimba Wood in New York issued the permanent injunction Tuesday, ordering LimeWire to disable the "searching, downloading, uploading, file trading, and/or file distribution functionality" of the software it distributed to users to access and share files through the peer-to-peer service.
In addition, the judge said in the 17-page ruling that LimeWire must notify its workers, investors, and customers of the injunction. Wood also ordered the site to file a progress report in meeting all conditions of the order within 14 days.
The injunction essentially shut down the site, which on Tuesday posted on its homepage a legal notice saying that it had been ordered to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing application. "Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorization is illegal," the post warned.
In a statement, LimeWire called the decision a "sad occasion."
"Naturally, we're disappointed with this turn of events," chief executive George Searle said in a statement.
However, Searle said the injunction only applied to the company's file-sharing product and said, "Our company remains open for business." However, what it would do was not clear. Searle said the company remained "deeply committed" to working with the music industry and was working on a new music service.
In a statement obtained by The New York Times, the Recording Industry Association of America, which represented the 13 record companies that sued the site, said the injunction "will start to unwind the massive piracy machine that LimeWire and (founder and chairman Mark) Gorton used to enrich themselves immensely."
While the injunction closed down the site, it did not put an end to the case. Both sides will appear before Wood in January to begin arguments on how much LimeWire and Gorton should pay in damages, according to the RIAA statement.
LimeWire now joins other high-profile file-sharing sites, namely Grokster and Napster, in being shut down through a lawsuit filed by entertainment companies. LimeWire, launched in 2000, was one of the largest remaining commercial peer-to-peer services left on the web. The company claimed to have more than 50 million monthly users downloading 3 billion songs a month, according to the court.
Wood in May ruled that LimeWire was liable for the use of its software to illegally download copyrighted music. In issuing the ruling, the judge referred to the Grokster case in which the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the file-sharing service was liable when customers used it to swap songs and movies illegally. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by MGM Studios.
The record companies that sued Lime Wire included Arista, Atlantic, BMG Music, Capital, Elektra, Interscope, LaFace, Motown, Priority, Sony BMG, UMG, Virgin, and Warner Brothers.