Is there even $75 trillion dollars in the entire world?

Copyright law allows a copyright holder to collect what are termed “statutory damages” in an infringement case. Unlike traditional injury-based damages, statutory damages are not related to the actual harm done to a plaintiff.  Instead, they are set by Congress, and are defined in the copyright statute.  (Hence the term.)

The copyright statute provides:

(c) Statutory Damages. —

(1) Except as provided by clause (2) of this subsection, the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just. For the purposes of this subsection, all the parts of a compilation or derivative work constitute one work.

(2) In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000.

(Emphasis added)

That’s right – a copyright holder can seek up to $150,000 per willful infringement.  Illegally and willfully download 10 songs, pay up to $1.5 million in “damages.”

This nutty provision has led a group of record companies to seek $75 trillion from the makers of Limewire, a piece of software that allows users to share and download music ala the original Napster, Kazaa, or Bittorrent. That’s $75,000,000,000,000 – a “75” followed by 12 zeroes.  To put that number in perspective, note that the entire US national debt is only $14 trillion dollars.

Fortunately, Judge Kimba Wood finds the claim ludicrous as well, noting that “the entire  music recording industry hasn’t made $75 trillion dollars is “more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877.’

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