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The RIAA has squeezed $105M USD out of the P2P giant Limewire.  (Source: Mexican Foodie)

Don't expect that windfall to go to artists, though. The RIAA says it will "reinvest" it in its antipiracy efforts, which include maintaining a mass threats program against U.S. citizens and trying to pay off politicians to outlaw burning backup copies of content people own (pictured).  (Source: Google Images)
Parasitic nature of music industry's big labels continues

In today's market many independent musicians view the big record labels as a parasitic entity of sorts, exploiting talented musicians, inflating undertalented pop stars and lavishly spending, while crying over "dropping" profits.  Of course, not everyone feels that way, but a recent settlement between major label copyright watchdog group the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and filesharing service LimeWire does little to convince observers otherwise.

You may recall that LimeWire was smote down by the RIAA in federal court over copyright infringement claims.  The site's appeals fell on deaf ears, and the service was ordered shut down.

The case has finally been wrapped up with a jury deciding on damages against the service.  The jury in this case opted to arrange a settlement between LimeWire and the RIAA legal team, which would call for LimeWire to pay $10,808 USD per track for the 9,715 tracks the RIAA claimed LimeWire infringed, for a total fine of $105M USD.  

While that may sound like a lot, it's actually significantly less than the maximum fine of $150,000 USD per track the jury could have awarded for willful infringement.  That would have resulted in a fine of $1.46B USD.  The RIAA originally sought $150B USD in damages from LimeWire -- approximately15 times the music industry's total reported yearly income -- but was deterred by the minor triviality that LimeWire had nowhere near this amount of money.

RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol hailed the decision, commenting, "The resolution of this case is another milestone in the continuing evolution of online music to a legitimate marketplace that appropriately rewards creators."

The settlement will do little to improve the major labels' image, though, as they may not give any of the record windfall to the artists that actually had their work infringed.

Instead, the organization has previously promised to spend the money to reinvigorate its unprofitable campaign of threats and lawsuits, in addition lobbying politicians to offer greater enforcement of copyright infringement at their constituents' tax expense and outlaw consumer practices like creating backup copies (which the RIAA contends is "stealing").

RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy previously stated, "Any funds recouped are re-invested into our ongoing education and anti-piracy programs."

The RIAA would surely argue that artists would eventually benefit by reducing piracy.  However, the organization's past efforts have proved only marginally effective at best as piracy rates have waned and waxed with the years passing years, always remaining relatively high.

Recent studies have also shown that pirates are the biggest legal purchasers of music.  This makes sense, as many view piracy as a "preview" of sorts, which they use to decide which artists are worth supporting.  They might not buy that Lil Wayne track they downloaded, but they might end up buying an album from a smaller artist they discovered, like The Antlers.

At the same time major labels in the U.S. and Britain are accused of committing mass infringement and stealing millions in revenue from independent musicians.  The labels have convinced politicians and the legal system to give them the right to sell any track that they "can't find" licensing information for.  

In effect this means they can go out and steal copyrighted work of small independent labels and musicians.  A compensation system is in place, but it's notoriously bad -- many musicians have struggled for years to get repaid, only to find their pleas fall on deaf ears.

At the end of the day the major labels' campaign of infringement and campaign against infringers in the public have a surprising amount in common.  Both generate big money for the labels -- and both give nothing to artists. 

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Place the blame where it belongs
By Beenthere on 5/13/2011 1:52:45 PM , Rating: -1
The RIAA didn't pirate or illegally distribute copyright protected works, Limewire did. It cost a lot of money to presecute pirates. The contracts that artist have with record companies is based on sales. By reducing piracy artists actually receive more royalties.

I hope that Congress soon passes the proposed tougher piracy laws that make it a misdemeanor to pirate. Manadatory prison time and $10K fines per copy seem to be the only thing that pirates understand. The sooner these pirates are in prison the better. They fully understand they are violating law and thus should be punished in a manner that will discourage future violation of law. Society is not going to allow piracy to continue without serious consequences.

RE: Place the blame where it belongs
By IlllI on 5/13/2011 2:12:26 PM , Rating: 3
"By reducing piracy artists actually receive more royalties"

care to show proof of this mr. riaa lawyer?

RE: Place the blame where it belongs
By aharris02 on 5/13/2011 2:29:22 PM , Rating: 5
Look everyone, we have a visitor from a major recording label!

Either that or you're the epitomy of a sheep following the "truth" given to you by those in power.

Manadatory prison time and $10K fines per copy seem to be the only thing that pirates understand.

All I'm hearing is: "These consumers don't like the way we sell our music huh... well a little JAIL TIME should teach them."

Well I have a better idea: maybe this industry should treat rampant piracy as the indication of a market failure that it really is, and evolve like every other industry would be expected to.

RE: Place the blame where it belongs
By IlllI on 5/13/2011 2:53:54 PM , Rating: 2
yeah as if our prisons arent already full enough as it is lol

RE: Place the blame where it belongs
By TSS on 5/13/2011 7:51:22 PM , Rating: 3
No matter how full the prisons are i'm sure we could find a dungeon or 2 for RIAA executives ^^.

By kattanna on 5/13/2011 2:31:35 PM , Rating: 3
Society is not going to allow piracy to continue without serious consequences

so when are we going to have the navy sail into those ports in africa and stamp them out?

RE: Place the blame where it belongs
By invidious on 5/13/2011 2:55:27 PM , Rating: 1
It cost a lot of money to presecute pirates
So because prosecuting a minor offense is expensive the punishment should be inflated arbitrarily? I don't think so. If the RIAA cant cost effectively enforce copyright protection then maybe they shouldn't be doing it.

By aharris02 on 5/13/2011 3:13:07 PM , Rating: 2
And if Beenthere and his employers have their way, the RIAA won't be enforcing copyright protection... our already-broke federal government will!

By JediJeb on 5/13/2011 6:46:35 PM , Rating: 1
If every person in the world would just band together and say "No more" and refuse to either pirate or buy any music what so ever for the next 5 years, then the RIAA would be gone because they would have no money and the artists could then start over with a clean slate by organizing their own independent studios and marketing systems with no attachments to the record companies. Self marketing is easy these days with the internet so who needs a record company.

Problem is though, so many people are addicted to having new music pumped into their ears that they can't go even a little while without it.

Break the addiction, break the slavery of the record companies.

RE: Place the blame where it belongs
By YashBudini on 5/14/2011 4:13:17 PM , Rating: 2
It cost a lot of money to presecute pirates

Have you ever been on the victim end of a class action lawsuit? It's suppose to be about helping the victims, but in the end you're likely to get a check for 36 cents.

IP is important in many aspects, self serving lawyers and actions not so much.

By YashBudini on 5/14/2011 4:16:56 PM , Rating: 2
I got downrated for insulting self serving lawyers? Who exactly is the rater anyway? Someone who works for the RIAA?

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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