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Musician Claims $5.2 BILLION In Damages In Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Apple, Amazon And CDBaby

from the also-seeking-alchemy-secrets-and-unicorn-foals dept

The laws surrounding IP can certainly be absurd, and the ever-extending copyright term has turned the phrase "for a limited time" into a joke in search of a punchline. But there's nothing so absurd as those who take these laws into their own hands, find a lawyer willing to represent fools and pursue supposed infringement in court.

Roland Chambers from South Carolina has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Apple, Amazon and CD Baby over 12 original pieces of copyrighted sound recordings and two pieces of original artwork for the album cover. Chambers is looking for Apple to pay the larger amount. In total, the plaintiff is seeking an insane amount of over 5.2 billion dollars.
That's not a typo. Billion. $5.2 billion or a little over $1.7 billion per defendant. How did these defendants arrive at the receiving end of damage claims that rival IP abuser Zynga's market cap? I don't know either, but here are some of the accusations from Chambers' filing. (All punctuation/spelling errors from the original.)
On or about July of 2001, Plaintiff provided Defendant #3 (CD Baby) with five (5) compact disc including 12 original pieces of copyrighted sound recordings and two (pieces of artwork for the album cover.

In consideration for the compact disc, Defendant #3 executed a consignment only contract, which included distribution of the five disc sent only, no reproduction clause, warehouse storage fees if not sold, and no ownership transfer of copyright.

*A true and correct copy of the Note is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
[Quick interjection: there is no Exhibit A. There are only "demand breakdowns" for every defendant. And there's no asterisk anywhere in the filing that might give some indication what "Note" refers to. From where it's placed, one would assume it would be a copy of the contract with CDBaby, but nothing is provided other than Chambers' claims and bad math.]
No payment was reported or issued to plaintiff for any of the five disc.

Plaintiff discovered the compact disc were still selling in March 2014 (beyond the quantity ever legally produced) and in various formats and demanded explanation, as well as payment.

CD Baby was to distribute disc and not authorized to create any reproductions; however, more than five disc exist today, and CD Baby is only definitely aware of the whereabouts of one (1) disc. A representative states one (1) disc was sold and (3) were likely recycled/destroyed. This leaves one more disc unaccounted for prior to counterfeit units being placed on the market.
From this point, Amazon and Apple are both accused of allegedly selling Chambers' music without authorization (listed as "ringtones" on Apple's damages worksheet) "far beyond the quantity" authorized. Chambers supposedly gave Apple three songs to stream ("to poll the audience"), but Apple went ahead and made his whole album available digitally. Amazon apparently did likewise despite receiving notice several times to remove the material.

Now, here's where things get really bizarre: the "statutory damages enhancement."


The astronomical $1.7 billion is based mainly on Chambers' mistaken belief that statutory damages are awarded daily. If the unauthorized tracks were available for 4,745 days (roughly 13 years), then multiplying that by $30,000 per day gets you $1.7 billion. Of course, statutory damages don't work like that, but it's sort of amazing he didn't go for willful infringement and bring the total damages sought to $25 billion. Why not? It's not like we're talking about real money, real math or a real application of statutory damages here.

Beyond the $30k per diem, Chambers throws in everything else he can think of. There's another $30k thrown on for "cost of statutory damages." There's $1 million per defendant for punitive damages "based on evidence," something which, at this point, is almost completely nonexistent. There's also another half-mil on the spreadsheet for using his two album pictures -- a number seemingly pulled out of thin air and tacked on to the total.

Because Chambers hasn't listed album or song titles in his complaint, it's hard to verify whether or not he actually registered the copyright on his creations. There aren't a ton of copyrights registered to "Roland Chambers," but there's not enough info available to confirm or deny Chambers' right to claim statutory damages.

Chambers is also asking for attorneys' fees to be paid if he wins. Considering the "enhanced" math shown above, I'd be very interested in seeing Chambers' invoices for filing costs and billable hours.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

    If I were the judge I'd be in doubt. Should he recommend math classes (no Hollywood accounting college please) or psychiatric sessions for this guy?

    And again, the sense of entitlement burns...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Zem, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Re:

    Don't assume the judge knows math either!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Michael Donnelly (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:21pm

    It's worth noting that the plaintiff is representing himself in this action.

    Not too surprising that he was unable to find an attorney willing to sign a complaint with that level of ignorance of the law.

     

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  4.  
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    S. T. Stone, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:28pm

    The RIAA has this guy’s back, right?

    I mean, he’s doing exactly what they’ve told musicians to do for years: use the legal system to strike back at the evil (non-RIAA) corporations.

     

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  5.  
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    Jaques Nazire, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:39pm

    Hey John, this guy sounds like a perfect client for you. Could be the return of the Steele lawfirm, especially after he educates you on copyright law (since he knows it better than you or I)

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:39pm

    How about we kill multiple birds with one stone and keep allowing such massive statutory damage claims to persist BUT tax them at 90%. That way we can bring in much needed govt revenue without needing to raise real taxes. Non-statutory winnings keep getting taxed normally.

    Discourage people from seeking ridiculous statutory AND tax people who do go down the dumb path. The tax can then be used to fund grants or other things that promote the progress of science and useful arts. Win win?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    Re:

    $520 Million dollars is still a ton of money to this guy.

    How about we tax them at a 190% rate instead.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    Look, a rabbit!

    5.4 billion? That's ridiculous even by "Capitol Records" standards ($222,000 against Jammie Thomas over 24 songs). 5.2 billion for 12 songs is over 46 thousand times what Thomas had to pay per song. Even accounting for commercial vs non-commercial infringement, 5.2 billion is quite a huge rabbit for Chambers to pull out of his ass.

     

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  9.  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 1:03pm

    *sigh*

    Nice to know that the MPAA no longer have the monopoly on bad math in copyright...

     

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  10.  
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    Lonyo, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Look, a rabbit!

    Seems a fine figure to me.
    It's commercial willful infringement. Seems like 6x10^5 times the damages is reasonable.

     

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  11.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 1:08pm

    This may be interesting

    ... in a sick, distorted way. If I read this correctly, he sent the defendants (or at least #3) his original disks and artwork, with the expectation they would be selling THOSE PARTICULAR DISKS, not digital copies thereof.

    This is so far outside the way anyone actually does business, I can easily visualize some low-level employee ignoring whatever bizarre documentation was sent along and simply handling them in the usual way, including signing forms and posting the music in their online stores.

    "I didn't send my photo to the newspaper to be printed in every copy; I figured they'd just paste it to the front of ONE copy and that would be that!"

     

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  12.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 1:09pm

    Dr. Evil anyone?

    'For their heinous actions I demand... 5.2... BILLEON dollars!'

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    Be fair, people.

    He does concede:

    '3% of punitive damages to be returned to the State for benefits received'

    Maybe he's on a mission to raise revenue for S.C.

    There are probably better ways.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 1:59pm

    Uh, anyone can file a dumb lawsuit. It happens every hour of every day.

    What exactly is the point of this article?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 2:29pm

    Even with his insane math and presumptions, they are based on what has been claimed by each of the **AA's on multiple occasions.
    IP is our most valuable thing, in the minds of a few who only see dollar signs dancing because they made something that one time.
    While one could dismiss him outright for being out of his mind, this perfectly highlights the response we see time and time again. I made this and its worth kajillions that you owe to me, because I think its worth that much. You owe me, my heirs, my heirs heirs a living forever.

    Creating is hard, but it does not entitle you to all of this. Until we can stop the insane thoughts from the other side, who lie and distort the truth, we will see more and more of these cases.

    My only hope is that he used that awful Dash woman's poem as a refrain and the 2 of them will be forced to do gladiatorial combat.

     

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  16.  
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    BeeAitch (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:19pm

    Re:

    I regret that I can only give you one 'insightful' vote.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:41pm

    Thoughts and ideas can be private or public, but when a person chooses to share their thoughts in public, those thoughts then become Intellectual Public Property (IPP).

    The only way to prevent a thought from becoming public, is to keep it to yourself.

    If humanity ever creates a mind reading machine, and that machine is used to force people to hand over their thoughts and ideas. Then someone would truly have a valid IP case, not to mention a criminal lawsuit for human rights abuse.

    Until that day comes, I find the whole notion of 'Intellectual Property' violations, to be absurd.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 8:07pm

    Re:

    What exactly is the point of your comment?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    FauxReal (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 10:53pm

    Re: This may be interesting

    Actually, that's not very far from how musicians do business. I know multiple musicians that have use their own money to have CDs or even vinyl records produced and some have hand drawn their own artwork on each piece. They have then shopped them around to different record stores in an attempt to sell a bunch of them at wholesale. It works pretty good if your music is good and you go to indie record shops. But you can also try going through record distro companies who then offer them to retail shops.

     

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  20.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 2:58am

    Re:

    If these insane statutory damages start being effectively awarded the big players will lobby insanely hard to have the law changed. I wonder what will happen here. In the past only individual, defenseless peasants got slammed with insane amounts but companies, specially the big ones, have gone past the chaos largely unscathed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 5:01am

    Re:

    To point out how copyright law isn't free of idiots. Why, u mad?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    One More Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    If his consignment CDs were copied and made available for download and as ringtones without his authorization, then that does suck, and he may well have a case, depending on the terms of the contract he signed with CDBaby.

    But yeah, his damages calculations are ridiculous. Statutory damages are awarded per work, not per infringement, so at most, he could demand the full statutory range for each of the 12 songs and 2 pieces of cover art (totaling anywhere from $10.5K to either $420K or $2.1M depending on whether the infringement was "willful").

    Or, based on the infringers' financial statements, he could demand actual damages for the 5 physical CDs, plus any other profits that are attributable to the infringement—i.e., profits from actual sales of unauthorized CDs, ringtones and downloads.

    This choice is spelled out very plainly in 17 USC §504.

    Whether he can really go after all the companies involved, I don't know. If these third parties, in good faith, licensed the content from a distributor who turns out to be unauthorized, are they responsible for damages, or is the distributor?

     

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  23.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 25th, 2014 @ 7:00pm

    Re:

    Thoughts and ideas can be private or public, but when a person chooses to share their thoughts in public, those thoughts then become Intellectual Public Property (IPP).

    You mean they would, if it were not for copyright law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    John85851 (profile), Mar 26th, 2014 @ 2:40pm

    On the other hand...

    ... maybe this guy is using these huge figures as a way to scare the companies into settling for far less. He'll probably be happy with $10 million or even $1 million. In theory, the companies would prefer to give him the $1 million instead of going to court and risk losing the entire $10 millions.

    However, his claim of wanting $7 billion is so far past the amount needed to scare a company that they'll just ignore his case.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Re: On the other hand...

    He should be happy with $10. They only sold one of his CDs...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), Mar 28th, 2014 @ 10:07am

    Well, this is absurd, but only marginally more absurd than copyright troll demands.

     

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  27.  
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    somebody, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 10:34pm

    i am in a very similar situation...but horribly worse.

    I don't know WHY, for sure, but i think i know. Some "people" are psychopathic, sociopathic, or just plain evil individuals who would rape and sell into slavery their own sisters for drug money. That being said, i would like to have this lawyer or one in Los Angeles take my case ASAP. No joke. I made
    -$700,000 or so, the previois 10 years, from my ONLY CD/songs. A well-made DEMO i worked on for a few years, just to have little fun and hopefully book some paid session in-studio work, gigs, or better. This was when online music was very new...i ordered only 50 copies lf my own CD via CDbaby as they were the less expensive i could find. I funded everything myself, from my college jobs, and waitrssing, psychology research (my major)...the only parts of my CD i didn't do myself are the arrangement instrumentals and remixes which i had agreements with the musicians/remixers. I paid a good rate to.record in a small studio, and i KEPT ALL MY ORIGINAL RECORDINGS ON ANALOG. So the digital versions (i never gave permission for) online all on like 300 music sites for sale, they have been altered a little bit, more raping of my work.... But what is worse is, i am permanently disabled now, dependent on SSI. (useless) and Medi-Cal (near useless) I dont WANT to be disabled or depend on gvmt assistance!!!! But i have violently assaulted, by several men, sexually exploited without my knowledge, permission, consent....online/on video. I receive death threats, i have been wrongly diagnosed with severe catatonic psychosis......they finally undiagnosed me, saying i had a skull fracture, serious concussion, ruined spine, was deathly allergic to meds they made me take, i WAS/am being stalked... I was not just paranoid.... these aholes stole new unfinished tracks too, and sold them to some created fake computer CGI image "overnight sensations" , who use MY NAME(!!) . the bullshit these jerkoffs are PLAYING on me like i am a whipping-girl and flat out say i did the very crimes that THEY did to me,and say THEY are victims and.i hacked.the songs, money, etc from THEM. and they remote-ruin the cheap.computer and phones i finally save up to buy. I know, sounds impossible, sounds as if i am lying or crazy or wrong. That would be easy. I have proof of all i say/write . I AM going to go crazy on them soon, my own special ways... And that will be bad for everyone. So. I need a lawyer who will help me get my LIFE BACK TO NORMAL... Better than normal. Because i am singing no matter what happens, if i want to. I prefer to do business as ethnically as possible. But i am not perfect.... I just make my "demons" work for me. So...any lawyer in LA interested
    in winning this case so we can both retire? Email me if legitimate, or want to suggest a lawyer, or if you are real media... or if you have a real story at all similar... Take care....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Jay Ballard, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 8:42pm

    Re: i am in a very similar situation...but horribly worse.

    Me and Kim Jones fought Universal, the Clutch and Blige over "Take Me As I Am" but we couldn't come up with the bucks to do it. 10 lyrical similarities. Good luck on your suit. I hope you win.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Lee Darrel, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 6:07am

    Re: I Hope you understand

    I Hope you understand This Signing up with CD Baby is like loesing all of your legal copyrights to your songs because they say one thing but the digital contract says something else I need to know if any one ever take that to the court and all of this money talk but in the end nothing, since I sign up with CD Baby in 2011 I haven't receive a single cent it is unbelievable I give them 2 legal songs Wonder In The Dark and Kick Him Out registered by the Library of Congress my pro. is ASCAP and even to that I still get nothing if the copyright organizations can't find it that means they are selling those songs unknown to the U.S government in my book that is an illegal operation going on there, can I take this to a court? not because a song may be online,it is legal stuff a property can become illegal if the author is not paid within a certain time.Please reply to this if I'm right, to see my songs go to google and type in Wonder In The Dark by Lee Darrel

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    nasch (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 7:28am

    Re: Re: I Hope you understand

    I Hope you understand This Signing up with CD Baby is like loesing all of your legal copyrights to your songs because they say one thing but the digital contract says something else I need to know if any one ever take that to the court and all of this money talk but in the end nothing, since I sign up with CD Baby in 2011 I haven't receive a single cent it is unbelievable I give them 2 legal songs Wonder In The Dark and Kick Him Out registered by the Library of Congress my pro. is ASCAP and even to that I still get nothing if the copyright organizations can't find it that means they are selling those songs unknown to the U.S government in my book that is an illegal operation going on there, can I take this to a court?

    I have no substantive comment, I just want to mention that this is all one sentence. Though I'm using that term loosely. ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Lee (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 1:13pm

    Ok when you sign up with CD Baby how can you escape even if you get CD Baby over and win the case it is said in they contract only 5 cents will be yours I will be glad to hear you tell me how to win after you have sign to all of that. A CD Baby artist digital agreement the only way to earn just a little is if you find out they were hiding your sales data and the can still say something to defend them selfs because of that contract agreement you go ahead and read it and think about it I still want to know how I can win in court.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Lee (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Ownership

    If you're a singer songwriter recording like I am CD Baby can be brought in guilty if you judge them by what they post online and by the contract agreement that is if they will alow that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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