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CNET Sued Over LimeWire Client Downloads 206

Posted by Soulskill
from the seeing-what-sticks dept.
suraj.sun writes with this quote from Ars Technica: "Alki David, the wealthy film producer and entrepreneur behind sites like FilmOn, has sued CNET and its owner, CBS, for providing hundreds of millions of downloads of LimeWire P2P software over the last decade. He argues that CNET had 'direct participation in massive copyright infringement on peer-to-peer systems, such as LimeWire, that are used to copy and distribute songs, films and other artistic works,' and that CNET's Download.com was the 'main distributor' of the software. P2P software isn't illegal, though companies that use it to induce or encourage copyright infringement can be held liable. The principle, most famously articulated by the US Supreme Court in the Grokster shutdown, was extended to LimeWire last year when a federal judge shut down most of the company's activity."
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CNET Sued Over LimeWire Client Downloads

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  • However (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:12PM (#36049332)

    Last time I updated Company of Heros, P2P is the only way I could get the patches. From the publisher.

    Maybe they should cut out the middle men and sue ARPA for creating the internet?

    • Re:However (Score:4, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:41PM (#36049746) Journal
      Maybe, how much money does ARPA have? Remember, leeches follow the money. CBS has money. That's why they now are getting sued.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:12PM (#36049340)

    for its use. It's the theory of selling guns, while immoral by some people's standards, doesn't pull the trigger-- purchasers pull the trigger.

    If CNet is liable, then so are computer makers as they're a huge source of computers, which then download that pirated stuff.

    This guy is merely enriching the lawyers that talked him into it..... and this too, will soon pass.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      But this is more like suing the company that made the steel used by the gun manufacturer.
      • by KhabaLox (1906148)

        Actually, it's like suing the trucking company that shipped the gun to the store. Get your /. car analogies right.

    • by Bobfrankly1 (1043848) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:22PM (#36049476)

      for its use. It's the theory of selling guns, while immoral by some people's standards, doesn't pull the trigger-- purchasers pull the trigger.

      If CNet is liable, then so are computer makers as they're a huge source of computers, which then download that pirated stuff.

      This guy is merely enriching the lawyers that talked him into it..... and this too, will soon pass.

      FTFA

      The plaintiffs contend that CNET encouraged people to use LimeWire to violate copyright. One of the plaintiffs, Mike Mozart, has spent the last year collecting alleged examples of this; it's an odd mix of material that spans a decade and multiple sites from ZDNET to CNET.

      If this pans out in court, this won't simply "pass", unless there is a settlement involved. They are alleging that CNET didn't simply distribute PTP file sharing software, but that they encouraged it's use for sharing copyrighted music, highlighting big name (by their standards, not mine) artists in screenshots. This detail is huge, and likely the lynchpin of the entire case.

      Disclaimer: IANAL

      • The artists might have nexus, but I'm guessing that CNet will be held harmless, after many lawyers buy yachts. IANAL, too. Yet this shoot-the-messenger approach is really unlikely to succeed.

      • by MarkvW (1037596)

        You may not be a lawyer, but your post makes good sense. And CNET is not a judgment-proof defendant.

    • by guspasho (941623)

      Funny because the article uses the gun metaphor too.

      "Would gun sellers enjoy "Freedom of Press" protections if they offered catalogs demonstrating the ease of use of the Handguns being Sold for engaging in criminal activities such as robbing stores or banks. Then offering Solutions to specifically cover up your crime.

      "CNET provided the "Guns", the P2P Software, and the encouragement to commit "Robbery", here, the online file sharing of known copyrighted works.

      I'm not saying I agree with the guy, I absolutel

      • 1) it's not clear that CNet came up with whatever was being placed around the LimeWire ad; it might have been ad copy from the P2P software provider or its ad agency 2) there might indeed be legal software on any given P2P software; if bands are shown in an ad, that might violate IP surrounding the band's image, but it doesn't talk about the action of downloading specific things 3) lots of free/shareware can be used incorrectly and the enticement to use software in such a way doesn't endorse the actions. 4)

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          I would offer that using an image of a band or performer as promotion of LimeWire is almost equivalent to using a picture of Lacy Peterson to advertise a brand of rope or Ted Bundy to advertise knives. You know, make sure your victim dies with the first stroke, not the fifth. Or, how about "To kill like a pro you need a Slasher(tm) knife. Nothing else will do."

          Not that I put the use of Mr. Bundy to advertise anything beyond the scope of advertising in the US. I suspect his likeness is not trademarked in

    • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:40PM (#36049728)

      Limewire has non-infringing uses, therefore, CNET shouldn't be liable for distributing it.

    • It can make them liable. If they are distributing it knowing that it will be used for illegal purposes, then they may be liable. Of course this is a civil case, but the related concept is accessory to a crime [wikipedia.org].

      If you are selling guns, and market them as, "the best for killing your neighbor," and someone takes it and kills his neighbor, you may be accused as an accessory to the crime as well. This is what happened to Limewire: the court concluded that Limewire was encouraging copyright infringement. If the
      • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

        But using Limewire to download music and videos is not illegal unless the music and videos are copyrighted. The music and film industries would like everyone to forget that non-copyrighted music and videos does exist...

        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          *do exist.

        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          By "non-copyrighted" I mean to refer to material either whose copyright term has expired and has entered the public domain, or material whose "copyright" is specifically intended to give you the right to copy it. But either way, copying those materials would not be illegal, and the music and film industries want you to forget the existence of music and videos which are perfectly legal to copy.

        • You are right. And if Limewire had advertised their product as a way to download music and videos that are in the public domain or otherwise legally downloadable, they likely would have won the court case. But they didn't do that. Similarly, don't expect MusicFrost [musicfrost.org] to survive for long if they ever manage to make money worth suing for. Their website is clearly encouraging infringement. Compare that website to the new isohunt website [isohunt.com] (it is different outside the US), which has been designed specifically to av
      • Various US civil litigation results have held hosting organizations immune for the actions of users that post comments, files, and so on. Much has to do with the site's EULA, and how the TCA works to hold hosting orgs harmless. If CNet came up with ad copy that said yeah, download music for free! then they're likely still not culpable because there is music that can be downloaded legally-- bereft of copyright protection-- for free. Encouraging people to download legally free music is protected, too. LimeWir

    • by Xtifr (1323)

      If CNet is liable, then so are computer makers as they're a huge source of computers, which then download that pirated stuff.

      Ah yes, geeks trying to "logic" the law--almost as dangerous as the proverbial programmer-with-a-screwdriver. The summary (for once) even mentioned "induce or encourage", yet we still have people trying to judge the actions as if there were no actors, and assuming that any vague analogy between two different actions makes them identical.

      Hey, if someone trips on your staircase and breaks their neck, they're just as dead as if you'd put a gun to their temple and pulled the trigger, right? So it should be th

      • And we geeks caveat ourselves: IANAL. And we geeks also watch proceedings very carefully, for many different reasons. We analogize, we cite previous cases and the theories of judgment behind them, and how the cases were argued-- and especially what the results were, like them or not.

        The equivalency cited up and down the post comments indeed cite whether CNet promoted the activity or whether actually encouraged or otherwise incited users to perform illegal downloads. We don't have the direct citations in the

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          And we geeks caveat ourselves: IANAL.

          Speak for yourself--I didn't, but then I assume that anyone who takes their legal advice from slashdot deserves what they get! :)

          I'm not saying that CNet is going to win or lose (I haven't got the faintest idea at this point). I was simply saying that your claim, "If CNet is liable, then so are computer makers" was fallacious. As for whether CNet promoted illegal activity, you write:

          It's unlikely that they did. They would be stupid to do so.

          Companies do stupid things all the time. Look at Sony! Look at Microsoft submitting doctored evidence in open court. Look

          • We'll have to continue to disagree. Lots of case law backs up the theory that the transitive properties of the TCA and DCMA protect CNet pretty thoroughly. And I caveat my statements with IANAL as I feel that I'm obliged to-- with my understanding of how law is practiced, and who can practice law. Making pronouncements that imply legal practice aren't legal in my jurisdiction. Impersonation has been successfully challenged, and clarity isn't good here.

            Could CNet have been stupid? It wouldn't have been the f

            • by Xtifr (1323)

              I'm not sure we disagree as much as you think. I'm not arguing in favor of transitive properties of the relevant laws--just the opposite! I'm pointing out that your initial analogy of CNet and computer makers was flawed because CNet distributed Limewire, while computer makers merely create devices which can, in theory, be used to run Limewire. To me, it was your original analogy that seemed to rely on the non-existent transitive properties of these laws.

              As for whether CNet was stupid, I'm reserving judge

    • for its use. It's the theory of selling guns, while immoral by some people's standards, doesn't pull the trigger-- purchasers pull the trigger.

      If CNet is liable, then so are computer makers as they're a huge source of computers, which then download that pirated stuff.

      This guy is merely enriching the lawyers that talked him into it..... and this too, will soon pass.

      I don't think it's the computer makers that are ultimately liable. I would think it would be either people that make sound recording equipment, or even the recording people themselves, for making audio in a format that is so easy to share.

      Seems like if they had a simple authentication system that authorized every piece of hardware for each and every song individually, and had some way to authenticate who was listening to it - this wouldn't be a problem for them.

  • May both parties in this suffer ruinous lawyers fees, regardless of the outcome.
  • by Covalent (1001277) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:15PM (#36049382)
    CBS should sue Google for providing searches that linked to CNET which, in turn, linked to LimeWire. If it weren't for Google, most people would not have found CNET, and then LimeWire, and then typed in the movie they wanted to download illegally, then waited for that download to finish, then watched that movie. After Google is successfully sued, I suggest CBS should sue "eyes". Without "eyes", computer users wouldn't be able to intercept photons from Google, thus never finding CNET, LimeWire, Movies. After eyes are successfully sued, all people will have to have DRM-enabled "SuperEyes (TM)" installed, thus eliminating the problem and freeing the world from dirty, nasty piracy.
    • by cosm (1072588)
      Photons should be sued while we are at it, along with quantum mechanics. Hell, suing space-time as well might be the best way to ensure that all bases are covered. Or we can just put all the layers in the b-ark and send them to the nearest dying star.
    • by game kid (805301)

      After Google is successfully sued, I suggest CBS should sue "eyes".

      Maybe that explains their logo [wikipedia.org]. It's not like that because they want people to watch, it's a "Wanted" poster for pirating eyes everywhere.

    • They should just sue Mozilla, Microsoft, Google and Opera for providing the web browsers used to access the downloads. Then the world would finally be safe. Won't someone think of the children?

    • by yincrash (854885)
      CNET is owned by CBS. CBS is being sued, not doing the suing.
    • by steelfood (895457)

      CBS isn't the one suing CNet. CBS owns CNet, and is being sued.

      Hm, there's either some delicious irony going on here, or somebody's playing devil's advocate.

  • Dell made the computers that people downloaded Limewire from CNET.
    Cisco routed the packets.
    Kingston made the RAM.
    Seagate made the hard drives that stored it.

    • You are missing the mastermind behind all of this. The entity that needs to drive usage, and consumption in order to reap profits..... the electric company! They enable piracy, porn, and terrorist communication! How do they get away with it!?!? Down with electricity!!!
    • Dell made the computers that people downloaded Limewire from CNET. Cisco routed the packets. Kingston made the RAM. Seagate made the hard drives that stored it.

      Sue the Musicians that made the music that allowed itself to be infringed!

      Ah, reductio ad absurdum, proving one again that no one is not to blame.

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      Sue Microsoft, a company that made Internet Explorer, the tool millions of Limewire-downloaders used to access CNET.
      Internet Explorer has a special "download dialogue" feature for downloading P2P client software.

  • LImewire isn't used exclusively to download copyrighted material right? So isn't suing Cnet/Download.com for providing copies of Limewire something like suing Home Depot for selling crowbars that somebody MIGHT use to break into a home? Can Cnet be held responsible for how somebody uses the tools/utilities they provide if those tools/utilties aren't exclusively JUST for downloading copyrighted material?
    • The plaintiffs contend that CNET encouraged people to use LimeWire to violate copyright. One of the plaintiffs, Mike Mozart, has spent the last year collecting alleged examples of this; it's an odd mix of material that spans a decade and multiple sites from ZDNET to CNET.

      It's not a matter of how the software can be used, it's a matter of how the software was being promoted. Advertising "Download this software and share documents with your friends" is different from promoting "Download this software and get the latest hits from well known music artists A, B, and C." When you promote the software as a tool to violate copyright, you can't claim that it's an unintentional way for the software to be used.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Well insofar as pretty much everything you can download IS copyrighted - be it the poem you wrote, this post I am writing, grandma's photos, or Mass Effect 2, I would say that limewire is used to download any copyrighted material. Now the question remains about who had permission to distribute what. I promise not to sue you for reading this post.
    • LImewire isn't used exclusively to download copyrighted material right? So isn't suing Cnet/Download.com for providing copies of Limewire something like suing Home Depot for selling crowbars that somebody MIGHT use to break into a home? Can Cnet be held responsible for how somebody uses the tools/utilities they provide if those tools/utilties aren't exclusively JUST for downloading copyrighted material?

      Except for works truly in the public domain, anything downloaded is copyrighted material. That includes, CC, GPL, and other works placed under free terms. So yes, LimeWire is used primarily to download copyrighted material. But what the people in control of the various media industries neglect to say is that not all of that is illegally downloaded copyrighted material.

      I suspect that they are purposely encouraging this little bit of confusion in order to simply condition the masses (the consumers, not the

  • If producing and distributing P2P software is a crime, then producing and selling guns should be a crime too. People use guns to commit crimes too.

    It's so easy to understand that I'm clueless as to why no attorney has been able to use the above reasoning to persuade even the most stupid judge in the US.

    • It's so easy to understand why you're clueless because you don't read.

      The plaintiffs contend that CNET encouraged people to use LimeWire to violate copyright. One of the plaintiffs, Mike Mozart, has spent the last year collecting alleged examples of this; it's an odd mix of material that spans a decade and multiple sites from ZDNET to CNET.

      If CNET promoted Limewire as a tool to violate copyrights, and this is proven in court, CNET is going to be paying out. It's not simply that it can violate copyrights, it's that it was made to do so. Since you bring the gun analogy up, lets reapply it after reading: It would be similar to a gun company advertising their guns as being especially suited for gas station stickups, and another model for bank theft.

      • by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:44PM (#36049786) Journal

        Did they promote Limewire as a tool to violate copyrights? Or did they merely promote it as a tool to download music and videos?

        The former is like touting your guns as a great way to take people's jewelry and get rid of obnoxious spouses. The latter is like proclaiming that your guns are really good at killing, and it's up to you to figure out that there are both legal and illegal times to kill.

        • Did they promote Limewire as a tool to violate copyrights? Or did they merely promote it as a tool to download music and videos?

          The former is like touting your guns as a great way to take people's jewelry and get rid of obnoxious spouses. The latter is like proclaiming that your guns are really good at killing, and it's up to you to figure out that there are both legal and illegal times to kill.

          Some of the claims (from referenced material of TFA, not from a court document):

          CNET Editorial Staff Created MANY Instructional Videos for P2P software for years. CLEARLY Showing Copyrighted Songs were used to demonstrate the software.

          Cnet had editorial Articles ( Many Shown Here in this Blog) featuring comparison tests to determine the Best p2p Software FEATURING Known Copyrighted Artists Names such as Britney Spears and Metallica WITH INLINE HOT LINKS to the download pages for the test subjects

          CNET Editors RATED the Software with glowing Reviews often with Copyrighted songs Mentioned by Name or Shown in Sample Screen Shots.

          They may not have outright stated "pirate music! download music illegally!" or the like, but this might be enough to land them in hot water.

          • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

            If true, then quite possibly they may. Though CNET itself might be able to shield itself behind the fact that CNET != its editorial staff.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      It's so easy to understand that I'm clueless as to why no attorney has been able to use the above reasoning to persuade even the most stupid judge in the US.

      I suspect that the Second Amendment might just have something to do with it.

    • lol you do realize we are based on laws, right? And laws don't have to make sense. If we, as a people, decide that red roses should be illegal in front yards, but yellow roses are fine, then that will be the law. You can argue it as long as you want with the most impeccable logic, but in the court, law is greater than logic.

      In our legal system, guns are legal. That is enshrined in the constitution, as interpreted according to the system laid out for interpreting the constitution. If you want to win an ar
      • by trifish (826353)

        In our legal system, guns are legal

        And in your legal system, distributing P2P software, so that people can share for example free software, is illegal too?

        • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:59PM (#36049964) Journal
          No. Under US law (and most other legal systems), intent matters. In the case of Limewire, the court concluded that they were distributing the software with the understanding and intent that the users would download copyrighted material.

          If Limewire had been promoting their software primarily as a way to share free software, they would have been ok. But they didn't.
        • by Xtifr (1323)

          And in your legal system, distributing P2P software, so that people can share for example free software, is illegal too?

          Nope, Bittorrent is still legal because its makers have never promoted it as a tool for violating the law. So P2P software as a class is not illegal.

          The difference between Bittorrent and Limewire is like the difference between murder and manslaughter, except that in this case, the issue of intent doesn't just determine what type of crime you committed; it determines whether you committed a crime at all.

      • If you want to win an argument in court, you have to argue based on law, not based on common sense.

        And, sometimes, seemingly not based on logic, either. Though, I don't see any good reasons for that.

    • by trifish (826353)

      Seeing that some people use Constitutional rights as an argument against my guns analogy, I am amending it as follows:

      Cars can be used to commit crimes too. For example, to transport stolen goods, even to kill people. So does making and selling cars make you punishable for contributing to those crimes?

      • by idontgno (624372)

        A car analogy. Good. Still, could be better.

        A pizza analogy: Pizzas can be used to commit crimes too. For example. to feed criminals before they go on their criminal rampages. Even to kill people. (Dominos, I'm looking at you...) So does making and selling pizzas make you punishable for contributing to those crimes?

        I'm sure all decent right-thinking people will agree that yes, absolutely, pizza needs to be banned, or at least highly restricted. Taxed, and usage strictly monitored. and all users, producers,

        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          Mmm, yes, I volunteer to be the pizza-regulator who confiscates pizzas to make sure they're not used for anything illegal. I'll personally dispose of as much of it as I can.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Seeing that some people use Constitutional rights as an argument against my guns analogy, I am amending it as follows:

        Cars can be used to commit crimes too. For example, to transport stolen goods, even to kill people. So does making and selling cars make you punishable for contributing to those crimes?

        Let's not forget the government's culpability for building a road to drive the car on in the first place.

  • While evil, this trend poses some interesting possibilities. If Cnet has to take a hit, then maybe the RIAA/MPAA will sue the telcos next, and they'll sue each other in to bankruptcy.

  • Safe Harbour? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrueSatan (1709878) on Friday May 06, 2011 @01:40PM (#36049716)
    On the face of it (and IANAL) I would have to wonder if a defence under the "safe harbour" provisions of the DMCA might apply (these same provisions allow YouTube et al to host content without being liable for copyright infringement so long as they abide by the requirements of the DMCA with respect to "take down notices" as and when any that are of a legal form and correctness are sent to them.) If CNET were to be sent such a notice and to refuse to comply with it there would also be the question of the legality of the notice to consider...if the plaintiff had the right to issue the notice. I can see that lawyers are going to make a lot of money...yet again.
  • Pot, Kettle, Black (Score:5, Informative)

    by count0 (28810) on Friday May 06, 2011 @02:03PM (#36050034)

    Alki's startup FilmOn streamed over-the-air broadcasts online without any licenses...and was sued successfully by CBS and the other networks.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704369304575632643263718292.html [wsj.com]

    cz

  • since neither Alki David or his failing company FilmOn do not own ANY of the content their talking about, what right do they have to sue? This is a publicity stunt to try and bolster his idiotic idea for streaming TV on mobile devices thats clearly doomed to failure from the start.
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      since neither Alki David or his failing company FilmOn do not own ANY of the content their talking about, what right do they have to sue? This is a publicity stunt to try and bolster his idiotic idea for streaming TV on mobile devices thats clearly doomed to failure from the start.

      I look forward to streaming TV on mobile devices. The courts have already ruled that pulling programming off the airwaves and copying for personal use is not a copyright infringement (ie. recording radio broadcasts) and it is allowable for anyone with a receiver to receive that airwave broadcast.

      However, what will be interesting is whether or not the FCC will have jurisdiction over streaming media. Currently, cable only programming, that which is not actually broadcast, escapes the FCC regulations. Howev

  • Since browsers allow access to CNET, shouldn't they be suing Microsoft & Mozilla?

  • It'll be easy - he doesn't seem to have made anything I would have considered watching (let alone paying to see).

    IMDB listing [imdb.com]

    • by Zorque (894011)

      Wow, as a pirate I'm insulted he would insinuate that we would have downloaded any of his movies willingly.

  • "CNET had 'direct participation in massive copyright infringement on peer-to-peer systems"

    Also FTA, "They provided the guns"

    So CNET let people download the software, and the users used it for infringing purposes. Isn't that the definition of INDIRECT participation? How does he claim their part in it was direct?
  • After they sue CNET, will they sue themselves for creating the copyrighted content.

  • Let's sue Ford and GM next, because they are the primary means for obtaining vehicles that are used in crimes. Using the reasoning that is being used against limewire/p2p, then the automakers also have direct participation. Let's not rule out the firearm manufacturers.

    Making software available that has a legitimate use, should not make the distributor liable if somebody chooses to use it for illegitimate purposes. Limewire is a software tool, just as a crowbar is a tool. If I use a crowbar to change a fl

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