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The RIAA and NMPA are each seeking as much as $150B USD from Limewire. By contrast, the entire U.S. music industry made less than $10B USD in 2008, according to the RIAA.  (Source: San Diego Serenade)

Limewire is the most used peer-to-peer engine today, having been downloaded over 200 million times.  (Source: Myce)
NMPA seeks as much as $150B USD from Limewire; lawsuits may do little to slow filesharing though

Napster fell.  Kazaa fell.  And now the RIAA is waging an all out war to try to ensure Limewire follows in its P2P ancestors' footsteps.

Even as the move industry turns its efforts to suing thousands of BitTorrent users, the music industry is waging its own hard-fought war against filesharers.  After a long and unprofitable legal crusade, the RIAA has largely turned its efforts to lobbying the government to take up the mantle of tracking and prosecuting filesharers.

With the upcoming Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement the RIAA may have scored its biggest victory -- making it a felony crime to develop P2P engines that become used to distribute infringed content.

Not content to wait for the vote on that measure, music labels have taken the fight to one of the most-downloaded filesharing engines, Limewire.  Since the descent of Napster and Kazaa into legal and financial purgatory, Limewire has emerged as perhaps the most recognizable P2P engine.

The RIAA -- the music industry attack dog -- sue Limewire for $150,000 per infringed song way back in 2006.  However, LimeWire founder Mark Gorton had frustrated the labels for almost four years.  In May the labels secured a major victory -- a summary judgment against Limewire for copyright infringement, engaged in unfair competition, and induced copyright infringement.

Last month the RIAA accused Gorton of shifting his money to avoid paying damages from the case.  They have appealed to the courts to try to have his assets frozen.  They also filed a motion to have Limewire's services shut down.

Now a coalition of four major labels -- EMI, Sony/ATV, Universal and Warner/Chappell -- and four independent labels -- Bug, MPL, Peermusic and the Richmond Organization -- have filed a brand new suit against the popular program.  Represented by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), the labels filed suit in Southern District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.  

In the suit, they also seek $150,000 USD per song distributed -- the maximum for willful infringement.  Limewire constitutes 58 percent of the P2P traffic online, according to the NPD Group.  Limewire software has been downloaded 200 million times, including over 340,000 downloads in the last week.

Limewire has a legal music store, which offers over 2 million DRM-free tracks for sale.  However, the service is also thought to host well over a million infringed tracks.  That puts a conservative estimate of the amount sought in the new suit at $150B USD.

Even with Limewire's dominant position in the P2P industry there's no way it could pay that much in damages, as its assets sit in the millions, not billions.  It's hard to say what will happen in the case, but things thus far are clearly not going Limewire's way.

Ultimately one possibility would be a settlement, which would allow Limewire's music store to stay open and continue paying damages to the RIAA and NMPA (the two groups that have filed suit).  It remains to be seen, though, whether users would stick with the service if it went legit or leave it, as has traditionally happened throughout filesharing history (with services such as Kazaa and Napster).

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By MrBlastman on 6/18/2010 9:27:17 AM , Rating: 5
That is what is so messed up about the recording industry. In any other IP medium, such as books, movies etc., the primary content creators (authors, writers, lead actors) would be compensated more than fairly through royalties and continuing trailing sales.

Not so in the music industry if you're with a big RIAA affiliated label. Basically, if you're with one of them, you get bent over a barrel with a leather bootstrap tying your arms around it to your feet and then you are continuously violated by the executives in these companies with their diamond studded, gold encrusted and platinum hook tipped dildos up your rectum. They take more than the lions share of everything leaving you with _very_ little in terms of royalties.

Basically, to make it as an artist at a major label, you have to perform at concerts. So--when a song is downloaded, the musicians aren't losing out on much, it is the labels who are screwing them that get hurt.

This is what makes it so much different in the music industry and why I have zero sympathy for any of these labels when it comes to their frivolous and egregious lawsuits. These guys are crooks, all of them. If they'd actually spend a bit of time and try and promote artists who don't SUCK, they might just start making money the honest way again.

I don't care really. I have college radio in my town and small time independent artists who rock. I'm RIAA free and it feels great.

By Aloonatic on 6/18/2010 9:50:11 AM , Rating: 3
I think you might be exaggerating it slightly :o) but I tend to agree that it is the vast legions of middle men who are worried about losing out, far more than the actual artists here.

There will always be the demand for music, it's just how it is distributed and marketed that is the issue. I think that the middle men fear that their days are numbered, and that they will be surplus to requirements.

Of course, that depends on how you think that the music industry could work, but the truth is, they make out that they sell some sort of rare commodity that they have worked hard to create and bring to us. Where as in reality, there are a lot of great musicians out there, and much of what they sell us is not the fine cuisine that they think they can still charge a premium for, but nothing more than a Big Mac, sold at for top dollar, so that it can be fairly charted.

So few people win out. In a perverse way, they prefer to have people on their labels that they can control, so they need "artists" who are not actually all that good. They don't want the next Beetles/Stones/whoever. They know that they will just go off and do what they want, or be able to dictate the terms of any contracts.

Maybe we will one day live in a world where there are lots of artists, all selling their own music, through a market place that is not controlled by a few large players and world of mouth, the media will inform people about what is popular. There is plenty of musical talent out there, and making music has never been cheaper or easier.

By MrBlastman on 6/18/2010 10:34:15 AM , Rating: 4
It is these middle men that make me sick. When the artists die, the middle men continue to profit like fat hogs for years off of their works while their families and surviving relatives get very little.

It disgusts me. I guess we should also blame the artists for allowing themselves to be suckered into giving up all their rights to these wolves, but, there's nothing they can do about it once they sign the papers.

Maybe we will one day live in a world where there are lots of artists, all selling their own music, through a market place that is not controlled by a few large players and world of mouth, the media will inform people about what is popular.

There already are. Just listen to a good college radio, no matter how old you are. We have an awesome one in Atlanta, 88.5 or Album 88. They have all sorts of interesting stuff on there. I am constantly amazed at how much talent is out there that most people _never_ hear about because of the RIAA and the sleazy big labels.

By Aloonatic on 6/18/2010 11:17:31 AM , Rating: 5
Yeah, there is a lot of talent out there. You can go down to any pub/club that has a live music on and the odds are that a couple of the bands or artists will be playing their own stuff that would easily be good enough to get on the the radio.

What I would like is for this to be more easily available to everyone, and not drowned out by the PR men of the big labels who swamp everything with the auto-tuned, middle of the road, meaningless pap, and the same old boy bands and teen pop "sensations" that tap into the pre-teen market because they are all over the TV/radio.

It's sad that you just see the same thing repeated again and again, on a 5 or 6 year rotation with slightly different faces, but doing almost exactly the same thing.

By MrBlastman on 6/18/2010 11:44:30 AM , Rating: 4
That's the problem today, this stuff IS "good enough" to get on the radio. It shouldn't.

The problem is you aren't listening to excellent indie music in the right places. Search harder and you shall find it.

It is out there, and a lot of it is great.

By Solandri on 6/18/2010 2:57:17 PM , Rating: 5
I think you might be exaggerating it slightly :o) but I tend to agree that it is the vast legions of middle men who are worried about losing out, far more than the actual artists here.

He is not exaggerating. The record publishing companies absolutely rape music artists. Basically the way their royalties and contracts are structured, the publishing companies dump all the expenses onto the artists, and deduct it from their royalties. Net result is they make millions while the band frequently ends up owing the publisher money.

Remember, the RIAA and MPAA are the industry who invented Hollywood accounting.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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