Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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10/29/10: Mark Gorton ’88

Long before there was Mark Zuckerberg, there was Mark Gorton ’88. And long before there was Facebook, there was Gorton’s LimeWire. But no more: a federal court order shut down the file-sharing site this week, ending its 10-year run of free, downloadable music.

Gorton, an electrical engineer and Harvard MBA, started LimeWire in 2000 after making a pile of money on Wall Street. A proponent of open-source software and open government, he intended the site—where users could upload or download music—to be legal, he told the New York Times, and hoped to work in concert with the recording industry to produce the proverbial win-win. But in May, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Recording Industry Association of America, holding LimeWire liable for copyright infringement. The other shoe dropped on October 26 with a permanent injunction (PDF); more footwear will fall in January, when the court holds a trial to determine damages. The RIAA blames LimeWire for part of a roughly 50 percent drop in US sales of recorded music, from $14.5 billion in 1999 to $7.7 billion last year.

While LimeWire traffic ground to a halt, some people fear the LimeWire injunction could exacerbate real-life traffic. Gorton is publisher and financial backer of Streetsblog, a nonprofit site that advocates for sustainable transportation. The court order means that Gorton “is no longer in a position to financially sustain our work,” the blog’s editor noted in a fund-raising pitch this week.

Filed under Technology, lawsuit
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