Judge rejects record companies’ “absurd” LimeWire damages

An opinion by Manhattan federal district court judge Kimba Wood this week in response to record companies’ damage requests against the now defunct P2P file-sharing service Limewire will likely not eliminate ridiculously high settlements, but at least attempts to reign them in a bit.

Wood refers to the potential $75 trillion (yes, you read that correctly) in damages demanded by 13 record companies as “absurd” and denies the request of multiplying monetary awards by the number of online users who allegedly infringed on the copyright of a song, film, or other creative work.

“If plaintiffs were able to pursue a statutory damage theory predicated on the number of direct infringers per work, defendants’ damages could reach into the trillions,” Wood wrote in her 14-page opinion filed earlier this month. “As defendants note, 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.'”

“The Court agrees that allowing Plaintiffs to recover multiple awards per work based on the numbers of direct infringers is untenable,” Woods states later on in the paper. “The Court thus finds that 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.”

LimeWire attorney Joseph Baio issued a statement in response to Judge Wood’s decision.

“We were pleased that the judge followed both the law and the logic in reaching the conclusion that she did,” said Baio. “As the judge said in her opinion, when the copyright law was initiated, legislatures couldn’t possibly conceive of what the world would become with the internet. As such, you couldn’t use legislative history. Instead, the overarching issue is reasonableness in order to avoid absurd and possibly unconstitutional outcome.”

Baio is also reported to have joked about the fact that the amount of money sought by the record companies in this case could have been better spent on national health care or covering the US national debt.

Yes, corporations should be able to seek damages when their creative works are used without permission, but trillions of dollars? That’s just greedy.