Folklaw has seen some fairly interesting claims for damages in its time, but this one is simply awesome.
The Am Law Daily has reported that thirteen record companies are taking file-sharing company Lime Wire to the cleaners for copyright infringement.
Not unusual, we hear you say, until we add that they are seeking damages to the tune of $75 trillion (which also happens to be more than five times the US national debt)!
But unfortunately for them, Manhattan federal district court judge Kimba Wood didn't share their enthusiasm for endless riches, labelling the damages request "absurd" and contrary to copyright laws.
The record companies, which had demanded damages in the range of a measly $400 billion to a comfortable $75 trillion, had argued that section 504(c)(1) of the Copyright Act provided for damages for each instance of infringement where two or more parties were liable.
For a site like Lime Wire, which had thousands of users and millions of downloads, Judge Wood found that the award of damages would, under this interpretation, be staggering.
"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," she wrote in her 14-page opinion. "As the 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'."
Wood did concede, however, that the question of statutory interpretation was "an especially close question", but came to the conclusion that damages should be restricted to one damage award per work.
"We were pleased that the judge followed both the law and the logic in reaching the conclusion that she did," said Lime Wire's lawyer.
"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."
The lawyers also said, not unreasonably, that the money sought by the record companies could be better spent on paying for health care or wiping out the national debt (or, you know, ending global poverty).
Folklaw has a sneaking suspicion that Dr Evil might just be behind this.
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