Once one of the most popular file sharing services, LimeWire provided free peer-to-peer sharing for 10 years until it was shut down by federal authorities in 2010. During its tenure, LimeWire became a must-have software suite for the illegal download of free music, films, video games and software.
The Evolution of LimeWire
LimeWire appeared a year after the founding of Napster, a similar program that only supported MP3 downloads. Not only did LimeWire permit users to share music, videos and software, but it also relied on Java Virtual Machine, meaning it could be used on nearly any operating system.
P2P File Sharing
Since the late 90s, the most popular method of obtaining free music downloads has been peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. P2P sharing allows the 'sharing' of files between two or more individuals connected to the same network. By simply assigning certain directories on your computer to the network, you can allow others to download your media files and help yourself to files on others' directories.
LimeWire processed its file-sharing operations through Gnutella, a decentralized peer-to-peer network. It also offered support for torrents, which are metadata files containing the location of tiny information chunks that can later be pieced together into one target file. Through either the Gnutella network or torrents, users were able to share a variety of file types:
- MP3/Music files
- AVI/MPEG videos
- JPEG/BMP images
- DOC/TXT documents
- EXE software
- ZIP compilations
Over the years, the developers of LimeWire incorporated a plethora of additional functions into the software, including the ability to make firewall-to-firewall transfers, as well as a virus tracker, an auto-firmware update tool and activation key for the "Pro" version. Additional improvements included:
- Content filtering
- Improved task handling
- Improved search results
- Spam filters
- Improved translations
- Reduced UDP errors
- Support for theme colors
- Better XML query matching
- Optimized downloads
LimeWire's popularity led to the development of numerous spawns, including LionShare, FrostWire and LimeWire Pirate Edition. The latter appeared in November 2010 by an anonymous individual distressed by the legal action taken against LimeWire. Many still use it to this day, though it hasn't been adjusted in any form since its initial release.
How Did It Work?
LimeWire hosted an extremely user-friendly interface that permitted even the most computer-illiterate individuals to participate. One could easily select a media category (audio, image, video, document, or program), type a search term in the box and click the "search' button. The corresponding available listings would then appear on the user's screen. In regards to free music downloads, LimeWire would break each song down by artist, title, album and genre.
While most people took advantage of LimeWire for free, some opted to subscribe to LimeWire Pro for a nominal fee. The Pro version offered faster downloads and improved search results.
The End Of An Era
Though LimeWire specifically warned users that its software was not designed to be used for the illegal downloading and sharing of copy written materials, most users completely ignored this warning. This eventually led to the program's demise.
Arista Records LLC v. Lime Group LLC
In 2010, 13 recording companies led by Arista Records and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued LimeWire's founders, the Lime Group LLC, claiming that their product, LimeWire, promoted copyright infringement. On May 12, 2010, Judge Kimba M. Wood ruled against LimeWire and issued an injunction demanding that "the searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality, and/or all functionality" of LimeWire be disabled.
Approximately a year after the ruling, LimeWire's chief owner, Mark Gorton, settled out of court with RIAA for $105 million for the 9,715 music tracks pirated through his software application. Despite the tremendous victory for the RIAA, the download of free music continues to this day with other, similar services.
Free Music Download Consequences
Numerous other software suites have since taken LimeWire's place. The decision to use them to illegally acquire free music remains the choice of the individual. The risks of this illegal activity is real, however, as the RIAA has, over the years, filed thousands of lawsuits against individuals who use file sharing networks to trade copyrighted music.