No, The RIAA Is Not Asking For $72 Trillion From Limewire (Bad Reporters, Bad)
from the stop-that dept
In the last day or so we keep seeing people send over variations on this story claiming that the RIAA claims it is owed $72 trillion dollars from Limewire. Many of the reports appear to originate from the NME post I just linked to, though I don’t think that’s accurate. The story is bogus in almost every way possible, and it’s kinda sad that a ton of websites are repeating it as fact. If the basic statement sounds familiar, it’s because the RIAA member labels did make an extreme request on damages last year in the Limewire case, suggesting that every single download should be subject to statutory damages, which could, under some circumstances (basically willful infringement) reach up to $150,000 per download. As we (and many other sites) reported in March of 2011, Judge Kimba Wood rejected that claim, noting that:
“Plaintiffs are suggesting an award that is more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877,” Wood wrote, citing a Lime Group court filing referring to the inventor Thomas Edison. She called this an “absurd result.”
While she did say that such an argument would likely lead to “billions” in damages, she also mentioned that it could possibly reach trillions in damages, but I don’t believe she ever mentioned $72 trillion. Someone, however, did a back of the envelope calculation based on downloads and tossed out that $72 trillion number, and it caught on widely… again, way back in March of 2011. The first place I can find (though it may have come from somewhere else) to quote such a massive number was actually a Law.com article that came out right before the ruling was made. And it says $75 trillion.
Anyway, a year ago, in May of 2011, Limewire famously (or so we thought) settled the case for $105 million. That case is basically over.
And yet, for reasons that are beyond me, someone has revived the original story and lots and lots of other sites — including plenty with real reporters who should know better — are repeating it as fact, even to the point some are claiming that this shows the RIAA “wasn’t satisfied” with the $105 million settlement. Most reports are linking back to NME as originating it, and the NME report links back to one of the many posts from March of 2011, from Computerworld, so you might think that the (nameless) NME reporter misread the date.
However, in looking around, two days before NME did its bogus report, it looks like Stuff.co.nz posted a similar story also linking to that same ComputerWorld story. Amusingly, the very first comment on that Stuff piece points out that link is to a story from 2011. And yet, Stuff has still not updated its story or posted a correction. Meanwhile, it looks like NME’s (still nameless) reporter, simply copied the story from Stuff without crediting Stuff in the first place… meaning that many people are blaming NME for reviving the story, when really, NME just sucks at crediting their sources (and fact checking).
Either way, tons of other sites picked up on the story, including CBS News, who has since pulled it down entirely and just has a 404 page where it was before.
Then there are the folks at “Business Insider,” who still have the story up but appear to have appended a “note” at the bottom that says “This case was settled last May for the much smaller fee of $105 million.” You’d think that this should have led them to (a) change the headline (b) put the note at the top (c) be a little more clear in correcting their error. Even The Onion fell for it, though they’ve since posted an update. Then there are folks like WebProNews, Spinner and ZeroPaid (who is normally so good on this stuff), all of whom should have known better.
Anyway: basically this story is bogus. Well over a year ago, the RIAA made a ridiculous attempt to seek damages on every download. No specific amount was named, and no matter how you do your math, that $72 trillion number never made any sense at all. It was just a reporter looking for a good headline. Either way, the judge totally rejected that plan 15 months ago, and the entire case settled a year ago.
Nothing to see here folks, other than an internet pile-on. Move along now…