RIAA: Actual Damages Unknown
October 21, 2007 11:35 AM
Testimony from Jammie Thomas' case discredit the litany of figures quoted over the years
In continuing with the theme of
Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas
I bring you yet another
wonderful little tidbit
to drop from the mouth of Sony’s Head of Litigation, Jennifer Pariser: Sony – and likely the RIAA – doesn’t really know just how much money they’ve lost due to piracy.
In the same block of testimony where the Pariser disclosed that the RIAA’s lawsuit campaign is costing “millions” more than it earns, Thomas’ counsel pounced on the fact that the record industry was only seeking the punitive damages available in the Copyright Act. “What are your actual damages?” he asked.
Here we go. “We haven't stopped to calculate the amount of damages we've suffered due to downloading,” replied Pariser, who then added that, “that's not what's at issue here.” (Judge Michael Davis, who was overseeing the case, quickly remanded her to stay on topic.)
This statement runs counter to the numerous claims that the RIAA has made over the years regarding piracy and the industry’s actual suffering. One of the more recent claims, found under the “students doing reports”
of the RIAA’s web site, cites a conservative estimate of $300 million worth of losses.
, released by the Institute for Policy Innovation, quoted worldwide losses due to piracy at $12.5 billion USD and over 71,000 jobs.
Pariser could have easily cited either of those numbers as part of her explanation of ‘actual damages’ – unless, of course, the facts regarding that those figures are less than certain. Remember, she’s under oath here.
Over the years, there’s been a long tradition in
debunking the dollar amounts
that the RIAA has cited as money lost due to so-called piracy. People find all sorts of interesting explanations: lost CD sales are actually converted to
music purchases at iTunes
, lost CD sales are due to a
decreased demand and rising prices
, that piracy actually helps to promote the purchases of music, and so on and so forth. While I’m not going to argue that piracy doesn’t have
kind of effect, it does seem that if the industry wants to convince more government officials of its plight, at least it could get its figures straight.
When and if the music industry releases some honest-to-God figured that aren’t skewed, the big question then becomes one of trust: can we believe
numbers? Will we, the people, ever believe a word to come out of their mouths?
"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
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