Intellectual Property, Internet & E-Commerce Articles

LimeWire Users Have No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Under the Fourth Amendment
by Cyrus Wadia

August 15, 2008

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held today that LimeWire users have no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in their personal computers.  United States v. Ganoe, No. 07-50195 (9th Cir. 8/15/2008) (9th Cir., 2008)

LimeWire is a file-sharing "peer-to-peer" software program in which users can search for and share various types of files including movies and pictures. Federal agents obtained a search warrant for Mr. Ganoe's residence based on an investigation on LimeWire of downloads that had originated from Mr. Ganoe's IP address. Mr. Ganoe appealed convictions for receipt and possession of child pornography, in part, on the grounds that the evidence was obtained as a result of a warrantless search that was illegal under the Fourth Amendment.

The court disagreed, holding that LimeWire users cannot possibly have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the files stored on their computers: "we fail to see how this expectation can survive Ganoe's decision to install and use file-sharing software, thereby opening his computer to anyone else with the same freely available program...Ganoe thus opened up his download folder to the world." The court further stated that "o argue that Ganoe lacked the technical savvy or good sense to configure LimeWire to prevent access to his pornography files is like saying that he did not know enough to close his drapes. Having failed to demonstrate an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to accept as reasonable, Ganoe cannot invoke the protections of the Fourth Amendment."

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