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LimeWire Works to Block Unlicensed Material
September 25, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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The current version of LimeWire is 4.9.30. As of this version, no impediments exist that disallows the free sharing of information. The occassional nag screen may pop up once and a while, however this is little more than a mere nuisance for the average user. If the occassional nag screen is truly a bother, there are plenty of other Gnutella clients to choose from.

However, LimeWire has become and remains to this day one of the premier Gnutella clients. Its population is often situated at 2 million plus simultaneous users - easily outstripping the peak populations of Napster and WinMX. Its large resource of mainstream and non-mainstream music has made this a client of choice for new comers and veteran file-traders alike.

While things may seem rosy, it appears this constant is about to change.

On June 26, 2005, the United States Supreme Court remanded the MGM vs. Grokster lawsuit back to the lower courts. In a 9-0 ruling, the court stated "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

This opinion, written by Justice David H. Souter has caused great confusion and uncertainty in the P2P development community. The confusion raised has led to various results, such as BearShare halting development, while Neo-Modus has completely vanished. It also led to a disturbing message from LimeWire CEO Mark Gorton.

From the New York Times:

"Mark Gorton, the chief executive of the Lime Group, a brokerage firm that makes LimeWire, a file-sharing alternative to Grokster, said he was likely to stop distributing LimeWire in reaction to the ruling. He said it appeared too difficult to meet the implied standard for inducement."

"Some people are saying that as long as I don't actively induce infringement, I'm O.K.," he said. "I don't think it will work out that way."

The court, Mr. Gorton said, has "handed a tool to judges that they can declare inducement whenever they want to."

However time passed and this seemingly imminent decree never came to fruition. LimeWire development plodded on, yet the LimeWire staff remained silent on much of the behind the scenes activity.

Then, on September 13, 2005, the RIAA sent several letters to various P2P developers. The letter, which LimeWire is believed to have been a recipient of, demands that P2P developers prevent their users from infringing on copyrights or face litigation. It now appears that LimeWire might bow to this demand.

Approximately 3 to 5 days ago, LimeWire developers began working on two new branches, cc_reverify_interval-branch and cc-publish-branch. The code in the first branch works to verify that every file shared has a license. If this is not the case, the file will not be shared. The second branch is for publishing one's own work without a license. According to the release notes, individuals can attach a Creative Commons license if the work is either their own or have permission to distribute the work.

If an individual shares an unlicensed MP3 file, the LimeWire client will display the following message and prevent its distribution:

"LimeWire can't determine if one or more files have been published under a suitable license. These files will not be shared."

According to a LimeWire beta tester who informed Slyck of this news, this feature is nearing completion. Once completed, developers will simply wait for the signal to integrate these branches with the main branch, providing Mark Gorton, CEO of LimeWire, decides to go through with this.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) stated the US Supreme Court ruling would have a chilling effect on technological development. This certainly appears true for commercial development; however LimeWire’s saving grace is its open source nature. LimeWire may soon block the trading of unlicensed files, but LimeWire variants will continue to exist.

The recent court ruling puts LimeWire in an unfortunate situation. The Supreme Court ruled those who “actively induce” copyright infringement can be held liable. LimeWire never “actively induced” anyone – as it was always more of a research and development client than anything else. To chill a research client such as LimeWire may help expose the RIAA’s seemingly unfettered access to taunt and bully P2P developers into submission.

LimeWire did not respond to requests for comment on this situation.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
P2P Clients :: LimeWire
Authorized P2P :: Other

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