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Judge to RIAA: LimeWire Liable for Billions Not Trillions


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US District Court Judge Kimba Wood rejects RIAA's claim that LimeWire should have to pay statutory damages for each time a person illegally downloaded a copyrighted song. Calls the notion of trillions of dollars in damages an "absurdity" since it would constitute "more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877."

As the damages portion of the LimeWire trial nears the RIAA has been trying to establish just how much the once popular file-sharing service should be held liable for.

Last June, in the wake of its loss to the RIAA for copyright infringement claims on a "massive scale," it submitted a brief to Judge Wood contending that it "will be entitled to substantial damages, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, or even billions, because of the massive infringing conduct for which these Defendants are liable."

With the damages portion of that trial scheduled for May 2nd, US District Court Judge Kimba Wood has been asked by the RIAA to settle a "threshold dispute" in regards to whether the RIAA is entitled to damages per each individual infringement of a copyrighted work, or rather should it receive one statutory damage award per each work regardless of the number of infringements.

He has decided on the latter because the former would result in a judgment in the trillions of dollars, an amount that would constitute "more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877."

"The absurdity of this result is one of the factors that has motivated other courts to reject Plaintiffs' damages theory," observes Judge Wood.

He says this is the "most plausible interpretation" of Section 504© of US Copyright Law, "particularly in the context of the mass infringement found in the context of online peer-to-peer file sharing."

"Accordingly, the Court holds that Plaintiffs are entitled to a single statutory damage award from Defendants per work infringed, regardless of how many individual users directly infringed that particular work," writes Judge Wood.

This now means that the RIAA will find itself in the predicament of trying to determine just how many direct infringers there were per copyrighted work. Being that LimeWire was a direct connect-style P2P platform, trying to verify the actual number of total downloads ought to be quite tough, and we know how much the RIAA loves to make up numbers.

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