$1 Billion Fine for LimeWire, $75 Million for BP's Oil Spill — Huh?

If the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) gets its way, the file-sharing company LimeWire will get blasted out of existence with a billion dollar fine. Meanwhile, British Petroleum, with its oil spill, that's on its way to the ecology disaster level of a Chernobyl, is liable for up to $75-million under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. What's wrong with this picture?

That's a best case estimate. The RIAA actually thinks LimeWire owes them $1.5 trillion.. They came up with that number on a fine of $750 dollars per copyright infringement multiplied by 200 million estimated occurrences of copyright infringement. Aren't you sorry now that you didn't just buy Barnes & Barnes' Fish Heads from the iTunes Store for 99 cents?

Of course, BP may yet end up getting sued to death as well, but I think we can all agree that BP's 'mis-steps' were just a wee bit bigger than LimeWire's enabling users to share music files. So, why is LimeWire the one getting knocked about?

The court system is a train-wreck. But, anyone who follows the madness that is the U.S. patent system in the courts already knows that. All we can do is shake our heads in disgust.

LimeWire's executives are hoping for some kind of deal that will let them survive. I can't see that happening. The RIAA has asked for a permanent injunction on LimeWire's services. Let's face it, the RIAA has LimeWire where it wants them: On the way to bankruptcy court.

There's no question that LimeWire was used to trade music tracks and other proprietary files. Yes, that's not good. I'd feel a lot better about this though if whatever money the RIAA squeezes out of the LimeWire stone went to musicians and other content creators. It won't. It will go to the corporations that have totally failed to realize that the digital revolution was wrecking their old physical media-CD, DVD, and tape-based business.

The RIAA companies could have figured this out. Instead, like buggy whip vendors trying to outlaw horseless carriages, they keep suing both companies, like Napster and individuals like Joel Tenenbaum, who was hit by a $675,000 fine in a RIAA lawsuit for distributing thirty (yes, 30) songs over a peer-to-peer network.

And, what has all this done? In 2000, when Napster was the RIAA's bogeyman, the RIAA claimed that 1.08-billion units (read albums) were sold. In 2009, while physical units continued their decline, 309.5-million, the RIAA's numbers showed, that legal digital music downloads were up to 1,236.8-billion. Of course, in 2000, the RIAA wasn't even measuring digital downloads.

What was the cause of this improvement in business during a truly awful time in the economy? It wasn't lawsuits, or half-baked DRM (digital rights management) that only gets in the way of legal users. It was companies like Apple, which embraced digital downloads. Showing just how dumb they are, the RIAA has feuded with Apple over how it delivers music.

Listen, get into the 21st century already RIAA. So what if you beat LimeWire into the ground? Another file sharing service will just arise to take its place. Slam more individuals with ridiculous fines? Watch your customers get even more annoyed with you.

The 20th century and many of its business models are done. Get over it. Start working with the Internet and its users. In the long run, it's the only way you'll survive. What's to stop an Apple or some other forward-thinking companies to start signing recording artists? If you don't change with the times ... well, seen many buggy whips on sale lately?

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