The popular file-sharing service Limewire, which allows people to transfer music, movies and TV shows free of charge over the internet, is looking to get court-ordered subpoenas that require third parties to open up about their dealings with the record industry.
After US District Court Judge Kimba Wood delivered what was essentially a death penalty for Limewire for copyright violations with an injunction against the company in October, the case moved onto the next question: How much money should LimeWire pay the record industry for its misdeeds?
The labels claim more than $1 billion in damages and plan to argue for such compensation in a jury trial scheduled for April. But before that happens, Limewire is fighting tooth and nail to get the record industry to prove its losses.
A few weeks ago, a judge ordered the record companies to produce information on costs such as royalty payments on some of the music alleged to have been infringed. But that's not enough for Limewire.
In the past couple of weeks, attourneys for LimeWire have been pushing third-party licensees to hand over a range of documents, including contracts, royalty payments, accounting books and even internal company communications where executives at leading digital outfits discuss their relationship with the record business.
For example, Limewire has gone to the Western District of Washington to ask a judge to compel Amazon.com to cooperate with its discovery. According to a motion filed in court, Amazon prefers that any royalty documents be handed over by the record industry at the guidance of the New York District Court, but LimeWire is pressing for more.
"Amazon's contention that it need not produce revenue information and communications regarding its agreements with Plaintiffs because these documents are equally obtainable from Plaintiffs is wrong on the facts and the law," attorneys for LimeWire write.
"The Subpoena requests documents that could not be within Plaintiffs' possession, e.g. purely internal Amazon communications regarding its licensing agreements with Plaintiffs placed on their copyrighted works."
LimeWire says it needs these documents because it shouldn't have to rely exclusively on the record industry's versions of documents in preparing its defense to a $1 billion damages claim.
In further papers to support its motion, LimeWire argues that these documents are relevant, that internal emails from third-party licensees/distributors like Amazon (and presumably, Apple) should be turned over so they can see what really went on during negotiations over licensing songs for sale. The documents, the company says, "could illuminate Plaintiffs' views as to the true value of their works and how Plaintiffs acted toward Amazon and other online digital music providers."
In other words, LimeWire is dragging a whole host of parties into its dispute with the record industry, and looking to shed light on its range of dealings in the past decade. The courts will have to figure out whether this is a reasonable request or too burdensome.
Last week, a California court turned down Limewire's request to subpoena information from MediaDefender, which provides anti-piracy software to the record industry, as being irrelevant to the question of what damages are owed.