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Judge to music industry: 'Worth trillions? Forget it'

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The music industry is sticking to a self-valuation that has been rejected by various courts and has now been described as “absurd” by a New York judge.

Judge Kimba Wood has handed down an opinion in the LimeWire damages case that challenges the industry’s belief it could be owed more than the entire global GDP for one year.

After LimeWire lost the case last year, the trial moved into the damages phase, with hearings starting next May. In an opinion (pdf) published ahead of the damages hearings, Judge Kimba Wood revealed that the record companies, seeking statutory damages against the music-sharing service, are seeking damages predicated on the “number of direct infringers per work” – leading to a damages claim of as much as $75 trillion dollars (according to Wikipedia, total global GDP is around $69 trillion)".

“The absurdity of this result is one of the factors that has motivated other courts to reject Plaintiffs’ damages theory”, the judge wrote.

The idea that the industry could ask for trillions in damages apparently springs from a previous success against Usenet in 2009, in which copying of a relatively small number of works (878) was multiplied by the maximum penalty to arrive at a damages bill close to US$6.6 million.

However, in this case – which involves a large number of infringers – the judge has said “allowing Plaintiffs to recover multiple awards per work based on the number of direct infringers is untenable”. ®

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