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Is Limewire Illegal?

Updated on August 14, 2010

Author's note: Recently, Limewire has faced legal action in court from several music and recording industry leaders. This article aims to answer an extremely common question: is Limewire itself illegal?

What Is Limewire

Limewire, if you aren't familiar with it, is a piece of computer software that is essentially a peer to peer downloading utility. Limewire is similar in purpose to many other programs such as Frostwire, BitTorrent, Bearshare, etc. All of these programs work similarly by allowing users to download files from a remote computer. The more people that have downloaded the file, the easier it is for new downloaders to download since he or she can then connect to several computers and download a piece of that same file, which is later pieced back together.

What You Can Find on Limewire

Limewire does not remove (typically) any content. Since the program works by displaying files from users, there is no central server needed to host the files. Almost any kind of file can be found on Limewire. This includes music files, videos, documents, and pictures. However, Limewire is most well-known for the amount of music that can be found when using it.

Legal or Illegal?

Limewire, in terms of legality, is kind of like a gun. Guns themselves, when properly bought and used, are not illegal. However, some of the things you can do with a gun are illegal. It really depends on what and how you use Limewire.

  • Simply downloading the program, Limewire, is not illegal
  • Downloading documents, pictures, video, or music that is NOT copyright is not illegal
  • Downloading music that is copyrighted is illegal
  • Downloading a program that is open source or freely distributable is not illegal
  • Downloading a program such as Photoshop or The Sims is illegal

Downloading Vs Uploading

Many people don't realize that they can actually get in more legal trouble for the things they unknowingly share than the things they download. Let's pretend you legally downloaded and paid for music from Amazon. You then save that song to your computer. Later, you open Limewire. What you don't realize is that Limewire tends to scan your computer for files that it thinks you should share. Without you even knowing it, people can connect to your computer and download that music file. It's actually more illegal to host a file than it is to download it. In fact, the recording industry is more actively suing hosts than downloaders.

You can change your settings in Limewire so that it doesn't automatically share your files. You should make it so that no files are shared at all.

Limewire is likely going to be shut down because of the fact that the music companies allege they didn't do enough to stop piracy. However, unless you are downloading or sharing illegal files, Limewire itself is not illegal.


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    • xnotion profile image

      xnotion 7 years ago

      Hi Dolores,

      I agree, Limewire and music sharing in general are confusing. But you are absolutely right, it is just plain creepy that it scans your files. Just imagine if you have private documents in the folders it scans!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      The whole music sharing thing confuses me. I have a friend to gets some stuff off Limewire, but most of the artists are dead. So they are not missing out on anything. But the idea that Limewire scans your files is pretty creepy.