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LimeWire is back… with NFTs

The controversial file sharing service has been reimagined as a crypto platform, which aims to right the wrongs of its predecessor

The early internet revival is truly upon us. LimeWire – the much-loved, much-hated file sharing service once credited with the downfall of the traditional music industry – just announced it’s making a comeback after shutting down for more than a decade over a massive copyright lawsuit.

This time around, though, LimeWire won’t be trafficking in illegal copies of Sk8er Boi and Linkin Park’s “Numb”. Instead, the notorious peer-to-peer platform is reinventing itself as a marketplace for digital collectibles – AKA NFTs – initially focusing on “music-related assets” such as pre-release recordings, unreleased demos, artwork, live content, and virtual merch.

After 12 years of inactivity, transferring the service’s intellectual properties to brothers and entrepreneurs Paul and Julian Zehetmayr – who will act as joint CEOs – was apparently a complicated process, and the new company has no affiliation with the original team. Yet, here we are: the new LimeWire is scheduled to launch in May. Sound like a blatant attempt to monetise Y2K nostalgia and hop on the NFT bandwagon? Well, we’ll leave that for you to decide. 

In an interview with Bloomberg, Paul Zehetmayr himself acknowledges the rose-tinted appeal of LimeWire’s name, dismissing concerns about its links to piracy and virus-filled downloads. “After about 12 years of the platform being down,” he says, “all the controversy that might have been in the past with the music industry has turned into nostalgia.”

Of course, NFTs also come with their own controversies, from the lack of diversity hiding under the decentralised, democratic facade of crypto art spaces, to the environmental impact of many minting processes.

On the plus side, the regenerated LimeWire says that it wants to undo the damage that the original company did to the music industry – while laying the groundwork for some of today’s biggest streaming services – by offering 90 per cent of the revenue to the artists, with plans to draw in one million users in its first 12 months. Seeking to avoid a second large-scale LimeWire controversy amid upcoming crypto regulation in Europe and the US, the co-CEOs have also apparently incorporated strict anti-money laundering checks.

Founded in 2000, the original LimeWire was shut down in 2010, when a four-year battle with the US music industry ended in a federal court issuing a “permanent injunction”, ruling that the site wittingly caused a “massive scale of infringement”. At the time, thousands of copyrighted works were being shared by 50 million monthly users.