Updated at 3:00 p.m. PDT with comment from Lime Wire.
Thirteen record labels have asked a judge to issue a decision in a 2-year-old case against peer-to-peer software company Lime Wire for allegedly inducing copyright violations of music files.
The motion for summary judgment was filed Friday with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. The record labels, including Warner Bros. Records, Sony Records, and Virgin Records, are asking the judge for a decision because they claim Lime Wire has "promoted infringement," and has taken no steps to prevent illegal file trading, among other complaints.
The record companies originally filed their suit against Lime Wire in August 4, 2006, alleging "inducement of copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and with respect to pre-1972 recordings, common law copyright infringement and state law unfair competition." They also allege personal acts of copyright infringement by Mark Gorton, the owner of Lime Wire, and CTO Greg Bildson.
Lime Wire, which has filed a similar motion for summary judgment in the case, argues that it is not liable for "vicarious" or contributory copyright infringement because of the Sony-Betamax safe harbor. That safe harbor roughly states that makers of technology used for a variety of purposes are not liable for its creation and distribution so long as the products are "merely capable of substantial noninfringing uses," according to its filing.
The record label's filing states that a statistical study of Lime Wire showed that nearly 99 percent of download requests on its P2P software are for infringing music files. Because billions of files are shared every day, the "probable scope of copyright infringement is staggering," according to the document.
Because of the obvious parallels of previous cases against P2P file-sharing companies, the legal document refers heavily to those cases, including a 2005 Supreme Court decision against Grokster.
"As the Supreme Court observed in the context of the very similar Grokster litigation, '[w]hen a widely shared service ... is used to commit infringement, it may be impossible to enforce rights in the protected work effectively against all direct infringers, the only practical alternative being to go against the distributor of the copying device for secondary liability...'" according to the legal filing.
It continues: "Given the vast number of infringements that occur every day using LimeWire and the lack of a genuine issue as to any material fact, the argument for imposing secondary liability on this summary judgment motion is as powerful as it was in Grokster."
Lime Wire's CEO George Searle said in a statement that the recording industry's lawsuits aren't helping the music consumer, nor artists, songwriters, and publishers.
"Litigation isn't a good digital business model," said Searle, whose company's software has been downloaded more than 150 million times. "We're confident in our position and in the eventual outcome of this lawsuit, and we look forward to the day we can work together with the entire music industry to help expand its reach and deliver more to the consumer."
Based in New York, Lime Wire was founded in 2000. This spring, the company launched a music store for songs of independent artists.