LimeWire - File Sharing

Category: File-Sharing , Software

My kids are using something called LimeWire to download music and videos. They call it a a P2P file sharing program. Can you explain what that means, and how safe it is to use?

limewire file sharing

What is LimeWire?

Limewire is a free file sharing program, which allows individual users on the Internet to make music, video and other files available for direct access by other users. Limewire also allows a user to search for desired content on other users' computers and download those files.

limewire file sharing Unlike the now-defunct Napster, no centralized server or website is used to store files. Limewire directly transfers files from the hard drive of one user (peer) to the hard drive of another user, hence the term "peer-to-peer" or P2P file sharing is used. Given that understanding, it's more accurate to say that a file is being "transferred" instead of "downloaded" in the context of P2P applications.

LimeWire allows you to share or access any file type such as MP3 (music), AVI/MPEG (video), JPG (photo), etc. Because it is written in the cross-platform Java programming language, it will run on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and other operating systems. Some of the features that make LimeWire a popular file sharing application are:

  • Ability to search by artist, title, or genre
  • "Swarm" downloads from multiple computers speed transfers
  • iTunes integration for Mac and Windows users
  • Integrated chat

Is LimeWire Safe and Legal?

On their website, the LimeWire developers claim that "LimeWire has absolutely no spyware or adware. Zero. None. We do not bundle any other software with LimeWire." My testing has shown this to be true. I installed LimeWire on a test machine, then after using it for a few days, I did thorough scans with anti-virus and anti-spyware software. I also examined all the startup tasks, active programs, browser helper objects and other possible points of infiltration.

LimeWire gets a clean bill of health, in terms of freedom from viruses and spyware, and uninstalls cleanly if you no longer want the software on your computer. But is it safe to use LimeWire? And is peer-to-peer file sharing legal?

Copyright and Copy Wrongs

That all depends on what you do with the software. Some artists make their music freely available on file sharing services, in order to gain exposure or because they just want to give it away for free. Obtaining music on those terms via LimeWire or a similar P2P service is perfectly legal and even encouraged.

But copyright laws protect the creators of original works, such as music, movies, photos and artwork. Individuals who reproduce, distribute, or receive copies without the consent of the owners may be in violation of copyright laws. To put that more plainly, and in context: if you copy commercially available music or video files to your computer without paying for it, you're probably breaking the law. Even more bluntly, sometimes "sharing" is the same as "stealing."

Why do I say "probably?" Because there are some exceptions to the rule. If you don't own U2's "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" CD, and you download all the songs to your computer without paying for them, you are clearly stealing, and depriving the artists of their rightful recompense. But what if you bought the CD, and it melted on the dashboard of your car, or the dog chewed on it? In such circumstances, I would have no moral or ethical problem with using a P2P service to obtain those tracks, and burn a new CD.

Some people who disagree make the "crystal vase" counter argument. If you own a beautiful crystal vase, and it falls to the floors and shatters, you just can't fix it. And you have no right to go back to the store and demand a replacement... you have to buy a new one. So if your CD is damaged, they say, you should have to BUY a replacement copy. But this argument fails to take into account some important distinctions. Clearly to produce a copy of the vase, there are real costs involved: materials, labor, packaging, marketing, distribution, and retailing. But a digital download of a song you've already purchased doesn't cost or deprive the artist or the record company at all.

File Sharing Risks

EVery time someone downloads a song without paying for it, a bell rings. And the deep creases in the frowning faces of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) executives grow deeper. The RIAA has been known to aggressively pursue individuals suspected of music piracy, filing lawsuits and demanding the payment of steep fines. In some cases, they have demanded ISP records or posed as fellow file-sharers to root out violators. So be forewarned, the cost of "free" music downloads may be higher than you anticipate.

In addition to the legal risks, the use of file-sharing programs may accidentally allow others to copy private files you never intended to share. In LimeWire, you can check which files you’re sharing by clicking on the Library tab. It's a good idea to check this whenever you fire up LimeWire, to make sure that you're not sharing your tax returns, family photos and love letters.

It's also possible to unwittingly download a virus, spyware, child p**nography or facilitate a security breach. Mislabeled files can hide malicious content, so use anti-virus and anti-spyware software to protect your computer. See Should I Buy Anti-Spyware or Anti-Virus Software? to get my recommendations for the best free anti-malware protection. And be extra cautious when downloading executable files with extensions such as EXE, SCR, LNK, BAT, VBS, and DLL. LimeWire will not launch these files, but they can be opened outside of LimeWire.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that parents talk with family members about file-sharing. Here are some of the cautions they offer:

Parents may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, p**nography, or other material that may be inappropriate for them. Also, because other peoples' files sometimes are mislabeled, kids unintentionally may download these files. In addition, kids may not understand the security and other risks involved with file-sharing and may install the software incorrectly, giving anyone on the Internet access to the family's private computer files.

Got something to add to this discussion of LimeWire and file sharing? Post your comments below.

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Most recent comments on "LimeWire - File Sharing"

(See all 81 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

25 Mar 2008

She just recently deleted it, but never checked to see if she was sharing downloads. She downloaded about 100 or so songs and she feels really guilty about it and really doesn't want to get sued. She has gotten rid of all the songs and the limewire software, but could it still be sharing her files? Thanks for your help!

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you deleted the software, you are no longer sharing files.

Posted by:

steve hollingsworth
20 Nov 2008

I used limewire to download songs. But i am charged extra by my cable company if I download more than 30 gigs(a month)I find the file shareing aspect of Limewire is eating up my gig limit rapidly. On my bill... data transfer.. half the gigs used were for(outgoing) files. So make sure that you limit your bit rate of transfer and what files you want to share. if you leave the door open it may be troublesome.SH

EDITOR'S NOTE: It may be more than troublesome... you could end up in court facing RIAA lawyers. Do a Google search for "Cassi Hunt".

Posted by:

04 Dec 2008

I have files on limewire that are saved but being shared is this ok.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are sharing copyrighted (commercial) material, then you run the very real risk of being sued by the RIAA.

Posted by:

04 Dec 2008

I'm sorry I have files on limewire that are saved but NOT shared is this ok?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Probably, but if you continue to download copyrighted materials, you still run the risk...

Posted by:

15 Dec 2008

how do you copy a song from limewire to my music file???

EDITOR'S NOTE: That depends what your "music file" is...

Posted by:

AG Wright
15 Jan 2009

I fix computers for a living. 1 out of 3 computers that I get with viruses have Limewire on them. I can't PROVE that the reason they have viruses is Limewire because the people that use these computers also let their antivirus programs expire, it's usually the original copy of Norton that they don't renew. Sigh. I don't remember ever having to remove any viruses from a computer that had a current antivirus, except mine of course.

Posted by:

17 Feb 2009

i use limewire and i was wondering if i should share or not share the files i have already downloaded from them

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wondering? Still?

Posted by:

ms b
26 Feb 2009

My son downloaded a lot of bad songs, movies and videos, plus some of our family pictures, how do I get them off and i can't get to the homepages or the pages which lets you delete things when I try to pull up limewire all i get is the video pages

EDITOR'S NOTE: Try using Add/Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2009

K, whenever I go to type in a song for my limewire, nothing comes up. NOTHING AT ALL!

It's really making me mad and I was wondering what I could do to make this work again.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe you've reached your PSQ (Pirated Song Quota) for the month. Try again in July.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2009

Is the music industry dead?

Posted by:

23 Jun 2009

If you're paying for LimeWire yearly, could you still be sued?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Of course! Buying Limewire doesn't give you a license for illegal downloading. This is a quote from Limewire's copyright page: "To use LimeWire legally, you must have the permission of the owner of the copyright rights in the file for each file in your LimeWire shared Library." See

Posted by:

16 Jul 2009

How can you share files with a particular? Is there a way to directly connect with them?

Posted by:

rawi rawi
02 Aug 2009

I need some information about using limewire because i haven't used it till now.
IS it save to share your information online?


Posted by:

Yvette Martinez
08 Aug 2009

Can Limewire slow down my computer???

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, especially if you're downloading or uploading a bunch of songs.

Posted by:

Mae C
12 Aug 2009

If you used Limewire/Kazaa a few years ago (unsure if the files were shared or not) and deleted the software (but not the music), then used a different computer from then on, is there a way to get tracked for those songs? I know recently there was an RIAA lawsuit a few weeks ago of a man who got sued for songs he downloaded back in 2004.

Posted by:

Mae C
12 Aug 2009

Let me rephrase my previous question:

If one were to have songs on iTunes on a new computer that were downloaded from Limewire/Kazzaa that has been uninstalled on the original computer (unsure whether or not the files were shared), would this person be at risk for lawsuits? There was news last week that a man has recently been sued for songs he shared from Kazaa back in 2004.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There's no way for the RIAA to reach into your computer and poke around for files that may have been downloaded years ago. There must be something more to that story. Perhaps they just finally got around to taking action.

Posted by:

trisha malhorta
28 Aug 2009

how do i know i am breaking the law while downloding something....? is there any type of indication from them...which may alert myself....plz let me know that .....i am very much depending on the answare...

EDITOR'S NOTE: How do you know when you're stealing something? In general, if it's a commercial product (that includes just about ALL popular music) and you WOULD be required to pay for that "something" in a store (online or offline) and you're not -- that's breaking the law. You don't need a big red flag popping up to tell you that.

Posted by:

19 Sep 2009

i have one question. lets say i downloaded a song from the limewire. can the cyber owner or the net provider track me? either through website or anything?

Posted by:

19 Sep 2009

i have laptop working in office. we have wifi system.My question is will our IT department detect that I was transferring a file? can they track me? will they know the stuff i am transfering?please answer

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wifi or wired makes no difference. Your IT department can detect pretty much anything that crosses the network. If you're using LimeWire at work, you're living dangerously.

Posted by:

08 Dec 2009

Hi, I have since deleted Limewire after i heard all the stuff about it but i still have a question "Do people still have access to my computer's harddrive?

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, if you remove the software, then you are no longer sharing files.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- LimeWire - File Sharing (Posted: 14 Sep 2006)
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