In this, the THIRD of our blogs on the Lime Wire copyright infringement litigation (see Real Money and A Resounding Victory), we find lawyers who previously argued over TRILLIONS of dollars now bickering over a measly few hundreds of thousands.
To briefly recapitulate, for the benefit of our less-than-faithful readers, the Court first held that the plaintiffs – known to music industry insiders as “labels” – “are entitled to a single statutory damage award from Defendants for each ‘work’ infringed, notwithstanding that many individual direct infringers may have infringed that particular work on the Lime Wire system.” This reduced the potential damages award from the TRILLIONS of dollars to the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS.
In the second piece of this piecemeal litigation, the Court held that the “labels” could recover a statutory damage award in respect of each individually released “sound recording” – known in the industry as “tracks” – despite the fact that many of these tracks had also been bundled together and released as “albums” – known in the trade as “pure profit.” This prevented the potential damages from dropping further, to the mere TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars.
In its latest motion, Lime Wire points to 104 “sound recordings” – out of the 11,205 which have been infringed through the Lime Wire system – in respect of which the labels have previously obtained default judgments against the direct infringers, i.e. the depraved and musically challenged individuals who actually downloaded the “sound recordings.” The damages awarded in these cases totaled $80,250, of which the “labels” were admittedly able to collect $47,927.62. Lime Wire sought a ruling from the Court that the “labels” are precluded from seeking statutory awards from Lime Wire with respect to those 104 works.
Once again, the Court was faced with a situation for which there was no precedent and once again it rose to the occasion, pointing out that the copyright statute provides for “an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action …” The statute “does not speak to the issue of whether an award in one action precludes an award in a later action. Rather, the language, ‘all infringements involved in this action’ … make[s] clear that a plaintiff copyright owner may obtain only one statutory damage award per work in any one action, regardless of the number of times that a particular work is infringed … it speaks about limiting statutory awards based on infringements involved in ‘this action’; it does not state that an award of statutory damages against a defendant has an effect on a statutory award against a different defendant in a different action.” (emphasis in the original)
Somewhat softening her decision, the judge went on, “with respect to those 104 works for which Plaintiffs have recovered a statutory damage award from a direct infringer, it will be permissible for the fact-finder to consider that Plaintiffs have already recovered from a direct infringer for some portion of the infringement that Defendants induced …”
So, this case has produced yet another new precedent, and the trial of the damages issue has not yet begun!