OPINION: The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is asking the courts to force LimeWire to cough up a staggering US$75 trillion in damages.
No you didn't misread that last sentence, the RIAA really do expect LimeWire to pony up with US$75 trillion. Unsurprisingly the judge presiding over the case has labelled this amount as "absurd".
So just how absurd is this number? The GDP of the entire planet is estimated to be between US$59 and US$62 trillion.
So in a nutshell, RIAA wants LimeWire to pay more money in damages for copyright infringement than there is in the entire world. Yeah, right.
Once the tool of choice for filesharers wanting to downloading music, LimeWire has languished since the service was shut down last October after a court ruled that it was liable for copyright infringement in 2010.
The RIAA and the 13 record companies who are suing LimeWire have demanded damages ranging from a slighty less insane US$400 billion to a positively bonkers US$75 trillion, and are claiming that Section 504(c)(1) of the US Copyright Act allows them to request damages for each instance of infringement.
In other words, the RIAA thinks it should be entitled to damages not only for the individual works infringed, but for damages each and every time that a particular recording was downloaded by another LimeWire user.
Legal investigations by the RIAA have revealed that approximately 11,000 songs have been downloaded, and each song has probably been downloaded thousands of times.
But the judge presiding over the case disagrees.
In a 14-page ruling, the judge said that the music industry is entitled only to a "single statutory damage award from Defendants per work infringed".
Even though it looks like the RIAA will not be able to mop up every cent on the entire planet, LimeWire won't escape unharmed, and are expected to face a stiff damages bill that'll be in the hundreds of millions if not billions.
Maybe I am talking out of turn here, but wouldn't it make a significant amount of sense if the music and movie industries stopped wasting such colossal sums of money on high profile law firms and legal cases and instead ploughed this cash into new business models that made legitimate downloads more attractive and as such eventually killed off the whole copyright infringement issue?
This would of course make far too much sense when they can make a grab for the entire cash reserves of planet Earth. Perhaps they could look at pumping out some decent music for a change too?