CNET’s Download.com Sued over LimeWire Downloads

CNET’s Download.com and parent company CBS are being sued for several copyright infringement related offenses for their role in distributing LimeWire and other P2P software. The massive lawsuit is being brought by eccentric billionaire and FilmOn founder Alki David, who's backed by a collection of rappers and R&B groups.

cnetAfter his own company was sued for copyright infringement by several television networks including CBS, FilmOn’s Alki David has now turned the tables. For months the billionaire has been hinting that he might sue CBS for their role in distributing P2P software, and yesterday he filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court of California.

In the lawsuit against CBS Interactive, CNET Networks and LimeWire, David is joined by a collection of rappers and R&B groups including 2 Live Crew, Crucial Conflict and Pretty Ricky. They accuse CNET’s Download.com and the other defendants of several copyright infringement related offenses and are demanding compensation for damages suffered..

“The CBS Defendants have been the main distributor of LimeWire software and have promoted this and other P2P systems in order to directly profit from wide-scale copyright infringement. Internet users have downloaded more then [sic] 220 million copies from Defendants’ website, found at Download.com, since 2008,” the complaint starts.

In addition to LimeWire, the complaint notes that Download.com is still promoting various other P2P-applications which the majority of people use to infringe copyrights. By promoting this software in return for money and by showing users how to download, the CBS defendants are willingly contributing to copyright infringement, the plaintiffs claim.

“The CBS Defendants received massive amounts of revenue from P2P providers on a ‘pay per download’ basis and also from advertising revenues generated by advertisements placed on the download screen for P2P software,” the complaint argues.

“The CBS Defendants’ business model has been so dependent upon P2P and file-sharing that entire pages of Download.com are designed to specifically list and categorize these software offerings.”

“In fact, the CBS Defendants were well aware that these software applications were used overwhelmingly to infringe when they first partnered with LimeWire and other P2P providers, but ignored it in exchange for a steady stream of income.”

The complaint goes on to explain how CNET’s paid editors promoted various P2P-applications, and how they alerted the readers to tools that could circumvent DRM. According to the complaint the entire Download.com system was used to maximize the downloads of various P2P applications, and thus potential copyright infringements.

The above leads the plaintiffs to conclude that CBS and CNET are guilty of inducing copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement. In addition to receiving compensation they want the defendants to stop promoting P2P software.

“Defendants must compensate Plaintiffs for the damages they caused and be ordered to cease future infringement,” Alki David and his crew demand.

Without commenting on the claims in detail, it has to be noted that the Plaintiffs take a huge leap of faith with their allegations. The P2P software (e.g. FrostWire) they want Download.com and others to stop distributing is by no means illegal. LimeWire was found guilty last year not because of the technology it developed, but because it explicitly encouraged infringements.

That said, it seems that the parties in this case are hardly saints when it comes to honoring copyrights. Aside from the FilmOn founder who’s been sued for copyright infringement, several of the artists among the plaintiffs have also been involved in copyright infringement lawsuits, up to the Supreme Court in the case of 2 Live Crew.

In a comment to THR, CBS characterized the lawsuit as a “desperate attempt to distract copyright holders like us from continuing our rightful claims.”

“CBS and a host of other media companies were awarded a court ordered injunction against one of Alki David’s companies last year with respect to that company’s improper use of copyrighted content. His lawsuit against CBS affiliates is riddled with inaccuracies, and we are confident that we will prevail, just as we did in the injunction hearing involving his company,” the company added.

Time will tell who’s right and who’s wrong.


The complaint

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