UPDATE: Damages in Upcoming Trial in Recording Companies’ Suit Against LimeWire Limited by Recent Court Ruling
Hot on the heels of its settlement with a number of music publishers, LimeWire scored a victory in federal court in a related copyright infringement case filed by a number of record companies.
The case is Arista Records, LLC, et al v. Lime Group, et al. The thirteen record company plaintiffs read like a “who’s who” of the recording industry: Arista, Atlantic, BMG Music, Capitol, Elektra, Interscope, LaFace, Motown, Priority, Sony BMG, UMG, Virgin and Warner Brothers.
Arista initially grabbed headlines last May when U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ruled on summary judgment that LimeWire was liable for copyright infringement and that it wrongfully assisted users in illegally downloading digital recordings. LimeWire was subsequently shut down by an injunction issued by Judge Wood in October 2010.
With a trial on damages slated to begin on May 2, Judge Wood’s March 10, 2011 opinion limits defendants’ potential financial liability. The ruling will allow the record label plaintiffs to receive between $7.5 million and $1.5 billion in statutory damages from the defendants ($750 to $150,000 for each post-1972 recording infringed, with approximately 10,000 post-1972 recordings infringed by LimeWire). In addition, the record labels can receive “actual” damages for infringement of about 1,000 pre-1972 works.
Judge Wood agreed with defendants’ argument that the plaintiff record companies were entitled to one damage award per work infringed and rejected the record labels’ contention that they should receive one award for each discrete infringing upload or download made by individual LimeWire users. But, Judge Wood noted that the amount of statutory damages for a work would take into account the number of direct infringers of that work.
Judge Wood’s opinion echoed an earlier filing by LimeWire that noted that plaintiffs’ suggested damage calculation methodology could conceivably produce an award amounting to trillions of dollars in damages. Noting that “that is more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877,” Judge Wood indicated that would be an “absurd result.”
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