$75 trillion damage demand deemed “absurd”

by Walter Olson on March 23, 2011

Federal judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan applies some skepticism to the quantum of damages demanded by record companies in copyright actions against file-sharing service LimeWire. [American Lawyer]

{ 6 comments }

1 Bill Poser 03.23.11 at 2:02 pm

Of course its absurd, but I wonder to what extent the court is allowed to take notice of the absurdity: one of the problems with current copyright law is that it provides ridiculously large statutory damages. The problem is not so much the inflated claims of actual damages as the statutory damages.

2 Bob Lipton 03.23.11 at 3:22 pm

Well, it is, presumably triple damages for punitive awards. So the actual damage is a far more likely 25 trillion dollars.

Bob

3 ras 03.23.11 at 4:35 pm

25 trillion dollars is approx $4,000 for each person on the planet; man, woman and child.

4 Mark Biggar 03.23.11 at 4:55 pm

As that figure is based on the number of copies claimed to be in violation, The defense should demand that they produce the actual copies. No one has examined each so-called violating file, no-one has actually even counted them (likely they just made a WAG estimate) , why should the court just take the plaintiff’s supposition that they actually exist?

5 DensityDuck 03.24.11 at 1:20 pm

“The defense should demand that [the prosecution] produce the actual copies. ”

They do, by showing that the files existed on the defendant’s hard drives and that the defendant shared them via some means.

6 J.T. Wenting 03.28.11 at 4:22 am

The amount is ridiculous, yet isn’t.
1) It’s triple damages (punative), so actual claimed damages are lower
2) It calculates based on the amount of pirated tracks found, and many pirates have far more content than they’ll ever listen to.
I’ve known people who downloaded literally thousands of tracks a day, yet listened to only a few dozen a day at most. Damages would be counted over everything downloaded, as that’s the only criterium that can be applied.
So if a person is found to be in posession of 10 million pirated tracks (not an unusual number for your average pirate who’s been active a while), and you’re applying a $1 claim per track, applying triple damages that $30 million claimed against that single person.
Claim it against 2.5 million people, you’re looking at $75 trillion in claimed damages.

So while the number appears incredible, it’s an artifact of the law and fully in line with the actual data.
It’s just that the law was never designed to deal with such large numbers of infringements as have been generated by Limewire et. al. in the music piracy business.

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