Monday, May 21, 2012

LimeWire Owes The Major Labels 75 Trillion

LimeWire logo image on Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blogWhen the file-sharing service LimeWire was shut down for copyright infringement in 2010, you would have thought that the RIAA got exactly what it wanted. After all, shutting down a major source of digital music piracy should be considered a victory in a war where the RIAA has had few.

But no, that wasn't enough. Now the RIAA and 13 of the record labels that it represents are sueing LimeWire for the grand amount of $75 trillion. That's right, "trillion" with a T. That's 75,000 billion and 75,000,000 million, if you're counting.

The RIAA determined this absurd figure by identifying just 11,000 songs they felt were infringed. Figuring that each one was illegally downloaded thousands of times at the maximum damage award rate of $150,000 per download, they came up with the magic number.

Let's put the $75 trillion into perspective. The US economy is around $14 trillion per year, and the entire world's economy is around $60 trillion a year. That means that the entire world economy couldn't pay the maximum damages the RIAA thinks it should receive!

Now the judge isn't swayed by the RIAA's claim and will most certainly rule that each infringed song is worth just a single award regardless of the number of illegal downloads, but that would mean that the final number would still be in the billion dollar range.

What are the chances that the RIAA picks up that billion (let alone $75 trillion)? Probably zero.

All of these numbers are posturing for headlines. By throwing out absurd numbers like $75 trillion, the RIAA gets people like me to write about them (you're welcome, guys). It increases the chances of a larger settlement, since almost anything less than a trillion sounds like a victory. It makes the attorney's look good.

Does it help the music business as a whole? Does it move music along it's path of evolution? Does it help the music fan? Does it help the artist or band? The answer to all is "no." Whatever judgement is awarded will go directly to the bottom line of the labels with a hefty sum off the top to the attorneys. The artists will be lucky to see pennies on the dollar.

That's the remnants of the Music 2.0 music economy at work. Long live Music 3.0, where the artist takes control. May it happen ever more quickly.

You can read more about the case on

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Mat (The Laughing Bard) said...

Surely Limewire doesn't actually have any money to give them anyway... right?

Bobby Owsinski said...

At this point, it seems like they're really arguing over a feather in the attorney's cap.


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