Ohhhh, I get it. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), not known for their sense of humor, are simply reenacting that now culturally passé scene from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery — the one where the tragically inept antagonist Dr. Evil holds the world hostage in pursuit of a laughably ridiculous sum of money. But like the movie itself, the RIAA’s actions are all for the sake of comedic value, right? … Right?
It’s laughable to the rest of us, for sure, but unfortunately the RIAA are completely serious when they say that they want the essentially defunct peer-to-peer software company LimeWire to dole out up to $75 trillion in damages after the latter lost a copyright infringement claim. Read that number again: $75 trillion. To put it in perspective, that’s more than the GDP of every country in the world combined, which is about $63 trillion. That’s more money than what Microsoft CEO Bill Gates would have if we cloned him one-thousand times and multiplied his net worth an equivalent amount. That’s more money than would fit under your obese mother’s custom-made mattress. Okay, that was rude.
How did the RIAA come up with such a preposterous number? Presently, about 11,000 songs have been identified as legally “infringed” material, with each song likely having been downloaded thousands of times. Instead of being compensated a single time for each individual song, the RIAA believes that they’re entitled to damages for each individual download. Multiply the maximum statutory damage award of $150,000 times the number of downloads, and you probably reach that unfathomable trillion dollar number. Multiply $150,000 times each individual song, and you still have the potential for a billion dollar award, but apparently that isn’t vampire-like enough.
For her part, Judge Kimba Wood, who presided over LimeWire’s shut down last October, and found them liable for copyright infringement back in May 2010, has labelled the $75 trillion amount an “absurd result,” in a 14-page ruling on the case. Ultimately, she states, “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.” Now, now. Dry your eyes.