RIAA's Losing Gamble: Spends $63M For Copyright Suits

The Recording Industry Association of America previously said that suing people who shared music on peer-to-peer networks was an unprofitable endeavor. But it wasn't clear until this week just how big the RIAA's losses were.

Turns out, the RIAA paid more than $16 million in legal fees in 2008, but recouped only around $400,000 from copyright infringers, according to an analysis by defense attorney Ray Beckerman.

And that's not all. In 2006 and 2007 the RIAA spent more than $40 million in legal fees and more than $7 million in investigations, to garner a total of around $1 million.

Numbers like that surely played a big role in the RIAA's decision to stop suing individual, noncommercial file-sharers.

Of course, not all of the legal fees devoted to fighting copyright infringement were spent litigating against file-sharers. The RIAA has brought other cases, like a lawsuit against LimeWire -- which the RIAA won in May.



Still, suing at least 18,000 file-sharers between 2003 and 2008 obviously took a toll on the organization's finances.

And, even though the RIAA is no longer bringing new cases, the group is certain to incur yet more fees litigating the cases still in progress -- such as the lawsuits against Jammie Thomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum.

Even though the RIAA prevailed in both cases, neither is anywhere close to over. Judges in both cases found the damage awards assessed by juries too high.

The judge presiding over the Thomas-Rasset case slashed damages for sharing 23 tracks from $1.92 million to $54,000. But the RIAA rejected that decision, and the case is now slated for a third trial just on the question of how much Thomas-Rasset should pay.

As for Tenenbaum, a federal judge in Boston just ruled that the $675,000 in damages assessed by the jury are unconstitutionally excessive because the amount is "wholly out of proportion with the government's legitimate interests in compensating the plaintiffs and deterring unlawful file-sharing."

The RIAA has already vowed to appeal that decision.

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