Is LimeWire Going Legit? Not Yet.


LimeWire runs one of the last major file-sharing companies yet to make some sort of accommodation with big music.* The RIAA sued the NY-based company in 2006, and LimeWire sued right back; they’re still in litigation. So why is LimeWire announcing that it plans to sell music on the same network its users employ to pilfer tunes?

Good question. Other good questions involve LimeWire’s plans for pricing, what labels and artists will be for sale, and when the store is supposed to launch.

LimeWire CFO Jesse Rubenfeld attempted to answer some of the queries, but a lot of this still seems to be in flux. The songs will be sold in unencrypted MP3 format, and will likely cost between $.99 and $1.29, he says; there will also likely be a subscription offering akin to eMusic’s. The company has announced that it has signed on IRIS Distribution, which represents a bunch of indie labels, as well as Terry McBride’s Nettwerk Productions, best known as the home of the Barenaked Ladies. But Rubenfeld said some artists and/or songs from both groups may not make it onto LimeWire. It may launch by the end of the year, Rubenfeld said. Or maybe earlier.

Back to another take on the first question: Why would someone who uses LimeWire to help themselves to an unlimited amount of music for free want to pay for a much smaller selection?

“It’s legal to buy music through our store,” Rubenfeld offers. “That’s a reason to do it.”

Rubenfeld wouldn’t go into any more detail about the status of LimeWire’s legal battles, but we’ll read between the lines and hazard a guess. Industry executives say LimeWire has been making settlement overtures with the labels for some time, but hasn’t seemed that serious about actually shutting down the P2P network and attempting to retool with an industry-approved model, like iMeem is doing. Perhaps LimeWire thinks of the store as a good-faith effort on its part.

LimeWire’s legal battles, meanwhile, don’t seem to have hurt its popularity. BigChampagne estimates that a full 17.7% of U.S. Internet users have installed LimeWire’s software, a number that has increased 3.5% in the last year.

* There are plenty of file-sharing networks out there, of course, but they tend to be be run outside of the U.S. and/or in some sort of clandestine manner.