LimeWire in jeopardy after court ruling

The music industry has dealt a major blow to illegal music downloads in the United States, winning a copyright lawsuit against the operators of LimeWire.

Lime Group and founder Mark Groton faced claims of copyright infringement, unfair competition and inducing copyright infringement in a battle with the Recording Industry Association of America. CNet reports that U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood issued a summary judgment in favor of the RIAA, ruling thatt LimeWire’s operators optimized their software to ensure that users could download music, most of which was copyrighted. She also noted that LimeWire advertised in Google to people who searched for terms like “replacement napster” and “kazaa morpheus,” reports All Things D.

From here, the RIAA will likely seek a primary injunction against the LimeWire software, disabling its file-sharing features. The group could also seek statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each of the millions of copyrighted downloads facilitated through the software.

LimeWire rose from the rubble of Grokster, Kazaa and Napster to become the premiere vessel for illegal file-sharing in the United States. The NPD Group estimated last year that 58 percent of people who said they downloaded music from peer-to-peer services used LimeWire. CNet notes that the software’s been downloaded 200 million times from its site, and nearly 340,000 times in the last week alone. The music industry is understandably giddy.

“LimeWire is one of the largest remaining commercial peer-to-peer services,” RIAA chief executive Mitch Bainwol said in a statement. “Unlike other P2P services that negotiated licenses, imposed filters or otherwise chose to discontinue their illegal conduct following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grokster case, LimeWire instead thumbed its nose at the law and creators. The court’s decision is an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce.”

The question now is whether another service will pop up to take LimeWire’s place, or whether users will instead migrate to BitTorrent, which is decentralized by nature. One thing the RIAA has ensured with this victory is a harsher climate for entrepreneurs. With Groton facing charges as well as his company, investors will think twice before backing a service that involves any amount of copyright infringement.