Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Halloween Tale: LimeWire and the Deathly Injunction

It's the season of witches, pirates, and Snooki wigs -- so what better time for U.S. district judge Kimba Wood to sentence one of our most notorious pirates to the ranks of the undead, right beside those near-forgotten ghouls Napster and Grokster? As of yesterday, visitors to LimeWire’s website are greeted with the following:

LEGAL NOTICE

This is an official notice that LimeWire is under a court-ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software. Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorization is illegal.

While some news outlets view the injunction as spelling certain death for one of the largest remaining peer-to-peer services, others are saying this isn’t a “game-changing legal victory” for the music industry—but rather, a (predicted $1 billion +) slap on the wrist that will force LimeWire to “go legit”.

I am no expert in these kinds of cases (or any kind of case, for that matter) but I view the latter suggestion with some skepticism. Whether or not LimeWire will be able to work out a deal with a very miffed record industry is anybody’s guess, but with an estimated 50 million monthly users who download nearly 3 billion songs a month, “going legit” is not likely to be an easy feat.

And even if LimeWire evaporates under the sheer burden of monetary damages and trying to comply with increasingly-complex online copyright law, I’m doubtful such hard-fought lawsuits aimed at shutting down large peer-to-peer networks will ever yield the results record companies are hoping for. If history is any indicator of future behavior, Napster was replaced with Grokster was replaced with LimeWire which will be replaced by _________.

Partially underlying my skepticism about record companies ever having their “We are the Champions” moment, are my own personal experiences with file sharing. It’s been a healthy number of years since I’ve tinkered around with any of the abovementioned services, but as a teenager I remember thinking something along the lines of, “If this is so readily available to everyone who has the internet, how illegal can it be?” Compounded by my awareness that this was a bad—but somewhat socially condoned—thing to do, was an acute statistical realization that I was more likely to win the lottery than to get caught for downloading a few ABBA songs.

I suppose the end result of all these musings is that I think this injunction is a bit… futile. The world has changed, people share files. Change the file formats, find better ways to monetize your product, but don’t attempt to shut down sharing. Otherwise, where LimeWire is buried, a new—more clever—file sharing service will walk again…

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Limewire was obsolete 3 years ago. It has long since been replaced by bittorrent technology or more niche communities of trusted direct-downloaders. Courts have absolutely zero chance of stopping, or even stemming the tide of pirated music and video, it is up to the music/movie industry working in conjunction with infrastructure and service providers to make these things easy to access and affordable. Otherwise, people will continue to steal them with impunity.

10/27/2010 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This litigation strategy makes sense. Record companies don't have to shut down all illegal file sharing. They just have to make it inconvenient enough that enough people will be willing to pay a buck or two per song.

There are two ways to do this: First, you could go after individual file sharers. The problem with this method is that it creates bad PR. The RIAA tried this and got slammed for this.

A second way is to go after large scale file sharing services or companies that enable them. To engage in this successfully, the RIAA needs to establish precedents that make the people who start these companies personally responsible (either criminally or civilly).

That's what they did here.

10/27/2010 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:58 is correct.

10/27/2010 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody cares about "niche communities" of direct downloader nerds (and I'm one of them). As long as these communities stay really small and "niche" they don't interfere with commercial media sales to an appreciable degree. If they get large, then they aren't "niche" anymore and they get targeted.

Bittorrent is another story. But the content companies are trying to make it difficult to set up reliable databases of seeds. (See Piratebay litigation). They don't need to shut it down, they just need to make it inconvenient.

10/27/2010 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But they have tried and failed repeatedly to make file sharing a pain, and it never is.

10/27/2010 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speak for yourself. It is way too much of a pain for me to bother with now.

10/27/2010 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's definitely too much of a pain for me now too. Instead of buying music now though, I just listen to the radio. It's legal and free.

Oh, and I use all my Lexis points to get iTunes gift cards.

10/27/2010 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then it would have been too much of a pain for you before; you just had more free time.

Back in Napster, everything was fake and poorly tagged. Now complete discographies are accurately tagged and of high quality, and easier to find.

Claiming that it is more inconvienient now is like a 60 year old claiming that computers are inconvienient compared to legal pads. It is not inconievient just because the architechure isn't what you used before.

10/27/2010 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LIMEWIRE STILL EXISTS?! I guess all that porn I downloaded when I was 14 was enough to sustain them long past their relevancy.

Look, there are decent arguments on both sides of this thing. Media should be a little freer, but arists also deserve to make money. We could go at it all day (although given our age group, most of us will probably side with the digital revolution). The problem for the music industry is that the whole debate is temporary.

In the very near future, data storage and transmission technology will advance to the point that you can score every music recording ever in the history of mankind on a single disc or iPod, and transfer that mammoth collection instantly over the internet to whomever you want. That will happen. Once it happens, protecting media from unwanted distribution will become impossible. There will simply have to be some other way to make money creating music. I don't know what it is, but I know we will find out.

10/27/2010 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:57,

No, that's not it at all. It is much more effort to illegally download a new song I hear on the radio than to just click buy now on Amazon, Zune, or iTunes.

Maybe that's not the case if I want to download entire "discographies" or whatever. But for 99% of the people out there, legal downloading is significantly simpler.

10/27/2010 3:13 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

I also had no idea that Limewire still existed. Way to go RIAA, I guess.

For those who feel downloading is more effort than buying legally now, you are part right and part wrong. Bit torrent downloads involve a front end investment (you have to install a software program before downloading anything), but this is also true at least for itunes. After that, its as simple as searching for what you want and clicking "download"... nowadays the software does the rest.

Another piracy option is the use of user-uploaded file-storage sites like megaupload, fileserve & rapidshare. However, few reliable search options are available to find content on these sites (filestube is one of the few). By contrast, many, many, many databases of torrent files search engines exist (Piratebay and its ilk). However, even "private" torrent communities are finding their swarms crawled by the spider software developed by those angry Germans. Sites like megaupload are based in Hong Kong, beyond the reach of US subpoenas. So pirates are finding themselves balance ease of finding content (the torrent approach) against the impunity that foreign-based servers offer.

Legal downloading now is as easy as illegal downloading for certain things nowadays. Plus, the price point of digital content makes it accessible to most everyone. In fact, sites like myspace offer just about every album ever made to stream for free now. Combined with youtube's offering of free music videos, and for music at least, all the bases are covered. Granted, downloading the complete discography of Bob Dylan can still only be done illegally, but for most people's purposes, current access to music at affordable prices is sufficient.

TV & Movie content is a different story however. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Google TV & other entities are working to change this a bit. There is still an awful lot of content not covered by these solutions, such as recent TV episodes and recent movies (either recently released on disc or recently launched in theaters). It's particularly frustrating how awesome Netflix's streaming is, and yet how little recent content is available. I know it's changing, but still.

Anyway, even when video content becomes as accessible and affordable as music is nowadays, there will always be people that want to just steal content. I think the key for content owners & providers is to just strike a balance between people that are happy to pay for content with people that will pirate no matter how low the barriers to legal access.

10/27/2010 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toney,

I think you are assuming that everyone simply knows where to find torrents of everything they want. I have no clue where to even look.

Yes, both legal and illegal downloading involve a front end investment in that they both require installing software, but the software for legal downloading also provides incredibly easy access to content.

10/27/2010 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=bittorrent+search+engine

10/28/2010 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read the Grokster decision in a while, and I guess I should. But trying to stop piracy is an exercise in futility. First, historically, efforts to quash new technology has not only never worked, but the very technology that the music and movie industries were so opposed to (i.e., recordable cassettes, VHS recorders, CD burners, DVD's, mp3's,etc) have proven extremely profitable for them. Wake up! The key is to make improvements that make people WANT to go to see a movie (such as Avatar in IMAX, or just a good effects movie like Star Wars, Star Trek, etc) or WANT to purchase a movie, like Blu-Ray or good music that is an improvement over what can be obtained P2P.
Second, are Limewire and those like it much different than a copying machine? In the '60's, Xerox machines were going to be the death of books. P2P is a technologically advanced version of the copier. Sure it can be used for infringement, but it can be used for other purposes as well. The infringers are the issue, not Limewire, just like General Motors is not responsible for automobile deaths (in general). Sorry for this long post, but its time to wake up people and say no to legal censorship of technology under the guise of protecting intellectual property rights.

11/05/2010 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JUST CHARGE EVERY ISP $1 PER CUSTOMER....WHO CAN THEN PASS THAT COST ON TO THEIR CUSTOMER....WHICH IN TURN GIVES EVERYONE THAT HAS INTERNET ACCESS THE RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD ANYTHING THEY WANT....HOW EASY CAN IT BE??????

1/08/2011 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just find the song i want on youtube and then use the website fetchmp3 to directly download the mp3 of the song from youtube to my pc k

1/28/2011 4:58 AM  

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