Limewire is still a thing, except now it's a platform to shill NFTs

The new company betrays everything the original stood for.

SANTA MONICA, CA - DECEMBER 22: General views of Universal Music Publishing Group on December 22, 20...
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

It appears we’ve come full circle. After being public enemy No. 1 for major record labels all throughout the aughts, Limewire has now partnered with Universal Music Group. The software service that was once the go-to place for people to illegally and easily download music is teaming up with UMG, the biggest music company in the world, to become an NFT marketplace for its artists.

Artists under the UMG umbrella, which owns a host of record labels from Interscope to Def Jam, will be able to sell audio recordings, audiovisual content, backstage footage, and artwork as NFTs to their fans on the new platform.

"We see this partnership as a true demonstration of the pace at which the music industry is embracing Web3," LimeWire Co-CEOs Paul and Julian Zehetmayr said in a statement announcing the news. "We're thrilled to open up the LimeWire NFT ecosystem to Universal Music Group artists and fans and can't wait to see the first creative projects being launched on the marketplace."

It is a bizarre turn of events: while predecessors like Napster, and other sister services like Frostwire bit the dust from eventually being crushed in the courts by record labels, Limewire is about to successfully pivot into the rise of crypto and so-called Web3, where Limewire’s spirit of unregulated and decentralized tech is in fact championed.

“Universal Music Group has always prioritised its artists' creativity and valued fans' desire to engage in innovative new ways. Now, NFTs are providing an exciting vehicle to enhance this connection between artists and audiences. This is why we are delighted to have partnered with LimeWire, who is focused on guiding everyday users into this expansive arena, in this new era of Web3 engagement and music appreciation," said Jonathan Dworkin, EVP, Digital Business Development & Strategy at Universal Music Group.

You might call it a win that what was once a for-the-people pirating service is being legitimized. But really it’s just a major corporate entity reviving a former enemy to enable another cheap consumerist grift on the masses. And the founder of the original site himself might agree: after Limewire first indicated its new service as an NFT platform in March, founder and former CEO Mark Gorton said he was completely oblivious. He also denounced the fact that the current co-CEOs have in fact simply bought the domain name and have no previous association to the original site.

“I am not thrilled about an unrelated group of people using the LimeWire name. Using the LimeWire name in this way creates confusion and falsely uses that brand that we created for purposes for which it was never intended,” Gorton says. He added, “I think it’s a bit risky to say that LimeWire ‘is back’, the NFT project has got nothing to do with the original,” he says.

In other words, Limewire was once a kind of small middle-finger theft of major corporate record labels — now it’s just become a place where you shill out to those same corporations to “buy” some digital photos of your favorite singer.