Piracy favourite LimeWire making comeback as an NFT marketplace

The new site will focus on music with 90 percent of money going to artists.
The new site will focus on music with 90 percent of money going to artists. Photo credit: Getty Images

Limewire, once a favourite of illegal downloaders in New Zealand, is making a comeback but is going legit this time - if you consider NFTs legitimate, that is.

When the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 came into force in Aotearoa it was estimated that Kiwis were downloading at least 10,000 copyrighted items every day.

Piracy had even impacted New Zealand films, with popular comedy Sione's Wedding available on pirate sites before it had made it to the cinema, potentially costing millions of dollars.

A Newshub poll in 2015 found that more than a quarter of 16 to 29-year-olds in the country illegally downloaded television shows, with 31 percent downloading movies.

Limewire was a big part of that scene, along with the likes of BitTorrent, Kazaa and Vuze, until it was forced to shut down in 2010 under pressure from the music industry.

At its peak popularity the file-sharing service was attracting 50 million monthly users worldwide, according to Reuters.

Austrian brothers Julian and Paul Zehetmayr are now trying to see if nostalgia can help drive a new business after they purchased LimeWire's intellectual property last year.

They're planning on relaunching it later this year, focused on music initially and with a desire to give 90 percent of all money to the artists.

Users will be able to buy and trade rare items, limited editions, digital merchandise and more, with purchases made in dollars rather than cryptocurrencies.

"If you look at bitcoin, all the exchanges are making it really easy to buy, trade and sell bitcoin. There's no one really doing the same in the NFT space," Julian Zehetmayr told CNBC.

The brothers have funded the revival thus far but are considering launching their own token to raise more, with token holders able to influence the company's policies as well as which artists are featured.

NFTs have become highly popular in the last year, with some selling for multi-millions of dollars. However there have also been numerous scams which have ended with people losing money.

Artists have also reported many instances in which their work has been used without payment or permission.

There were parallels between the NFT market and LimeWire's past, Julian agreed, saying both were "kind of a Wild West".

The new LimeWire is currently running an invite system to drum up popularity. The 10,000 people who refer the most new users will get an airdrop - generally either free cryptocurrency or an NFT - the company said.

Over 320,000 people have joined the waiting list for access so far.