A coalition of major recording companies Friday sued the operators of LimeWire for alleged copyright infringement, claiming that the firm encourages users of the popular online file-sharing software to trade music without permission, an industry organization said.
New York-based Lime Group, its subsidiaries that designed and distributed LimeWire and the corporation’s top executives, are named in the federal court lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, the Recording Industry Assn. of America said.
Record labels owned by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Britain’s EMI Music are behind the complaint, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, including at least $150,000 for each instance in which a copyrighted song was distributed without permission.
The case is the first piracy lawsuit brought against a distributor of file-sharing software since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that technology companies could be sued for copyright infringement on the grounds that they encouraged customers to steal music and movies over the Internet.
In the complaint, the record companies contend that LimeWire’s operators are “actively facilitating, encouraging and enticing” computer users to steal music by failing to block access to copyrighted works and building a business model that allows them to profit directly from piracy.
Like similar programs, LimeWire allows computer users to make files on their PCs available to a multitude of other computer users connected to one another, a method known as peer-to-peer file sharing.
In the LimeWire complaint, the record companies contend that LimeWire, which began operating in 2000, has since grown into the leading file-sharing software for stealing music as other Napster clones have shut down or gone legit in recent years.
A LimeWire spokeswoman, Katie Catillaz, declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday.
Last fall, LimeWire was among several file-sharing services to receive letters from the recording industry association warning them to shut down or face litigation.