Record Industry: Limewire Could Owe $75 Trillion – Judge: "Absurd"

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So we’re all pretty desensitized by now to the mind-blowing stupidity on display by the record industry in its foolhardy attempts at assigning damages in piracy cases — was anyone surprised when they told one woman, who had shared 24 songs, that she owed nearly two million dollars? Yes, ridiculous. But this — this is beyond ridiculous. This is… sublime.

The record companies suing Limewire were asked to estimate the damages that should be paid by the file-sharing service. Their estimate? $400 Billion on the low end, and at the high end — $75 trillion dollars. That’s more than the GDP of the entire world.

The judge, in a refreshing stroke of good sense, deemed these potential damages “absurd” and the plaintiff’s approach “untenable”. The $75tn figure relies on an interpretation of copyright law that provides statutory damages for each instance of copying, and with the numbers of downloads and individual songs the industry is alleging, the money adds up quickly. Even the $400bn figure is certainly grossly inflated, however “conservative” it may appear to Virgin, Atlantic, Sony, and so on.

It was decided that an interpretation of copyright law enabling the music industry to sue for more money than they’ve made in the history of recorded music was necessarily wrong, and accordingly the damages were reduced to “a single statutory damage award from Defendants per work infringed, regardless of how many individual users directly infringed that particular work.”

That amount will vary, of course, depending on the number of works that can be shown to be infringed, and the award per work decided on by the judge. It matters not because Limewire will have to pay less (they’re probably bankrupt already just from legal fees), but because it enforces a “reasonable” interpretation of our antiquated copyright laws, and limits the potential value of a shared song. It’s not exactly analogous, but at least it would be something for the aforementioned Jammie Thomas-Rasset to lean on in court.

Which record company owns the rights to “The Times They Are A Changin’”? They should give it a listen.

[via Hot Hardware]