A group of music publishers on Wednesday filed a copyright complaint in federal court against LimeWire's parent company and founder Mark Gorton, according to documents obtained by CNET.
Eight members of the National Music Publishers' Association, including the publishing arms of the four largest recording companies, were named as plaintiffs in the suit. They accuse Lime Group, parent of software maker Lime Wire, and Gorton with "copyright infringement on a massive scale."
The suit comes as LimeWire, the nation's largest file-sharing service, is trying to convince U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood not to shut down the service. The Recording Industry Association of America last month won a major legal victory against Lime Wire when Wood granted it summary judgment and found Lime Wire and Gorton liable for copyright infringement and inducing copyright infringement.
Representatives from Lime Wire were not immediately available for comment.
The music publishers have asked the court to order LimeWire to cease committing copyright violations and have asked for $150,000 in damages for each song that was willfully infringed and $30,000 for any other kinds of infringement.
As in the case with the RIAA, LimeWire users have illegally downloaded hundreds of millions of songs so the damage award the publishers could win is staggering.
The big question about the publishers' suit is why is it coming now, when the RIAA has spent the past four years in court with Lime Wire?
In an interview with CNET, David Israelite, president and CEO of the NMPA, said this is not a case of piling on but an effort by the publishers to get the money that rightfully belongs to the 2,500 publishing companies and the hundreds of thousands of individual songwriters and composers they represent.
"The current suit from the music labels doesn't represent the publishers' interests to the extent there are damages," Israelite said. "We have to file this so the publishers can be compensated for the massive theft that has gone on for years...we need to be at the table for any discussions about the future."
Lime Wire told CNET earlier this week that it is rebuilding the site into a legal service. Sources from the music industry said that they are skeptical about Gorton's sincerity and doubt that any of the top record companies will participate.
Updated 2:40 p.m. PDT: A Lime Wire spokesman said, "We have had many promising meetings with labels, publishers, and artists alike about our new music service and a business model that will compensate the entire industry."