The Recording Industry Association of America hopes to get a huge amount of money from whatever is left of Limewire. But recent claims that it is seeking “more money than exists in the world” are utterly false.
The numerous recent accounts were based on a now-deleted story at the NME music news site, headlined “RIAA claims it is owed $72 trillion dollars by LimeWire.” It’s not entirely clear how the writer of that piece came up with the figure, other than that it appears to have been based on a hugely faulty calculation method rather than plucked out of thin air.
The suggestion that it is “more money than exists in the world” apparently came from a comparison to the combined GDP of the world’s nations. That’s double misleading. First of all, you can count money in several ways (government issued cash, bank account totals) but none of these have anything to do with GDP, which measures production. Secondly, GDP is an annual not cumulative figure.
That the RIAA did seek a boatload of cash is true, though the correct figures have been known for more than a year. The organization’s claim for damages simply asked for the maximum penalty under copyright law ($150,000) to be applied to every individual download of the copyrighted tracks.
The judge in the case quickly dismissed that suggestion. She didn’t give a precise figure but said the total would likely be billions of dollars and possibly trillions. (There was no mention of anything close to $72 trillion.) The judge did note that using the RIAA’s logic would produce the absurd result of a claim for more money than the entire music industry has ever made from recorded music.
The judge instead said a jury could award damages for each of the 9,175 tracks cited in the case, not for each individual download. That left LimeWire facing damages of between $6.8 million and $1.46 billion depending on the jury’s mood.
In the event, LimeWire agreed to a settlement of $105 million, meaning the decision didn’t go before a jury. Whether there’s any prospect of it paying that money remains extremely questionable.