What happened to LimeWire?

  • LimeWire was a peer-to-peer file-sharing client based on the Gnutella network protocol allowing users to share music. It was created by entrepreneur Mark Gorton in 2000.
  • LimeWire was initially popular, but the platform became associated with illegal porn, security breaches, and virus-ridden files. Users declined as consumers flocked to torrent networks and sites such as YouTube.
  • LimeWire was sued by the RIAA in 2006 claiming somewhat preposterous damages of around $72 trillion. After a four-year battle, a federal court ordered LimeWire to shut down. The company eventually paid out $105 million to various music producers.
Founding and Early SuccessLimeWire was founded in 2000 by Mark Gorton as a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing platform. It quickly gained popularity as one of the leading file-sharing applications, allowing users to share and download music, videos, software, and other digital content.
Copyright Infringement ControversyLimeWire faced significant legal challenges and controversies due to widespread copyright infringement. Many users on the platform shared copyrighted material without authorization, leading to lawsuits from the music and entertainment industry.
Court Battles and Legal ActionsThe Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against LimeWire in 2006, accusing the company of enabling copyright infringement on a massive scale. After years of legal battles, LimeWire was found liable for copyright infringement in 2010, resulting in substantial financial damages.
Shutdown and Legal SettlementIn October 2010, faced with mounting legal challenges and a court-ordered injunction, LimeWire was shut down. The legal settlement with the music industry required LimeWire to pay millions in damages, effectively ending its operations as a file-sharing service.
Legacy of Copyright BattlesLimeWire’s legal battles had a lasting impact on the file-sharing and music industries. The case set a precedent for holding P2P platforms accountable for copyright infringement, leading to greater scrutiny of similar services.
Rebranding and Legal Music ServiceAfter the shutdown, the remnants of LimeWire rebranded and launched LimeWire Store, a legal music download service. This service aimed to provide users with access to licensed music content, marking a significant departure from its earlier file-sharing model.
Challenges and Closure of LimeWire StoreLimeWire Store struggled to gain traction in a competitive digital music market dominated by services like iTunes and later, streaming platforms like Spotify. The service ultimately closed in 2013, marking the end of LimeWire’s efforts to remain a legitimate player in the digital music space.
Lessons and Impact on P2P SharingLimeWire’s rise and fall served as a cautionary tale about the legal and ethical challenges associated with P2P file-sharing. It underscored the importance of respecting copyright laws and highlighted the consequences of facilitating copyright infringement on a large scale.

Origin story

LimeWire was a peer-to-peer file-sharing client based on the Gnutella network protocol allowing users to share music.

The platform was founded by entrepreneur, defense contractor, and hedge fund manager Mark Gorton in 2000.

Gorton developed the platform under the direction of Lime Group LLC, which consisted of a small group of developers interested in peer-to-peer technology.

Within twelve months of its release, LimeWire achieved more than three million downloads – something most developers of the time could only dream of achieving.

Growth was further encouraged by less aggressive ad placement within the filesharing interface and the forced closure of competitors such as Napster and Grokster.

During its peak around 2005, LimeWire was installed on approximately 18% of every personal computer in existence.

But less than five years later, the platform was ordered to shut down after a federal court ruling.

Let’s take a look at the demise of LimeWire below.


While the platform had many helpful features, LimeWire existed at a time when the downloading of music was far from an exact science.

Many users fondly remember waiting hours to download a single song, only to find the title did not match the song downloaded.

Though initially robust, LimeWire became increasingly riddled with viruses.

It was also associated with illegal porn and security breaches, with sensitive data from more than 626,000 credit reports and 150,000 tax returns uploaded to the network.

As usability declined, many users migrated to safer and more reliable torrent networks.

Others subscribed to Netflix or watched their favorite music on YouTube.

Copyright concerns and litigation

In 2006, a group of music companies represented by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Lime Group LLC over copyright infringement.

These companies included Warner Music Group, EMI, and Sony Music, among ten others.

The industry body, which had taken down Napster a few years previous, demanded $150,000 for every song traded on the LimeWire network illegally.

This amounted to around $72 trillion, a figure higher than the total global GDP at the time.

Digital music store

In March 2008, LimeWire unveiled the beta version of its new digital music store. United States users could pay for songs per-track or sign up for a monthly subscription.

The viability of LimeWire’s digital music store was severely handicapped because of the poor relationship the company had with major music producers.

Despite numerous attempts at reconciliation, the relationship would never be repaired. 

The digital store was eventually closed on December 31, 2010, because the selection of music for sale was extremely limited.

Court ruling and further lawsuits

On October 26, 2010, LimeWire was ordered to shut down after a protracted four-year legal battle with the RIAA.

Facing trillions in damages, the company eventually agreed to pay $105 million with a message on its website urging uses to delete the software.

Federal judges ruled that the platform intentionally caused a “massive scale of infringement” by allowing over 50 million monthly users to freely download and distribute copyrighted music.

The following year, LimeWire was successfully sued by trade group Merlin on behalf of 12,000 independent labels.

Several Hollywood studios including Disney and Paramount did the same in 2012, though that lawsuit was dropped in November 2013.

Key highlights of LimeWire:

  • LimeWire was a peer-to-peer file-sharing client based on the Gnutella network protocol, allowing users to share music. It was created by entrepreneur Mark Gorton in 2000.
  • LimeWire achieved significant popularity, with more than three million downloads within twelve months of its release. At its peak in 2005, it was installed on approximately 18% of all personal computers.
  • The platform faced usability issues, with slow download speeds and a decline in reliability. It became associated with illegal porn, security breaches, and virus-ridden files.
  • LimeWire was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2006 for copyright infringement, with demands of around $72 trillion in damages. The company eventually settled and paid $105 million to various music producers.
  • LimeWire attempted to launch a digital music store, but its poor relationship with major music producers hindered its success, and the store was eventually closed in 2010 due to limited music selection.
  • In October 2010, LimeWire was ordered to shut down by a federal court due to copyright infringement. The company was accused of allowing over 50 million monthly users to freely download and distribute copyrighted music.
  • LimeWire faced further lawsuits from trade groups and Hollywood studios, leading to legal challenges and additional issues for the company. The platform eventually ceased its operations in the wake of the legal battles and controversies.

Read Other Failure Stories: Lehman Brothers, American Apparel, Toy “R” Us, RadioShack, Forever 21, Gawker, Enron, Compaq, Kodak, Altavista, Palm, Friendster, StumbleUpon, Quibi, Blockbuster, Napster, Netscape, Chacha, MapQuest, Sports Authority, WeWork, Concorde, Xerox, Commodore, Circuit City.

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