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The Almighty Buck Media Music Your Rights Online

RIAA Seeks Estimated $97.8 Billion From MTU Student 827

theodp writes "The Detroit Free Press does the math on the damages sought by the RIAA from the Michigan Technological University student. The total? About $97.8 trillion--yes, trillion with a T--or enough money to buy every CD sold in America last year over again for the next 120,000 years, according to RIAA statistics." Update: 04/05 21:58 GMT by M : The Free Press can do the math, but not very well: the numbers provided show the RIAA is seeking some $97 billion dollars, not trillion. I'm sure the student is *much* happier. Headline updated.
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RIAA Seeks Estimated $97.8 Billion From MTU Student

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  • by MeanMF ( 631837 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:57PM (#5669604) Homepage
    Well that explains the lawyers with frickin' lasers mounted on their frickin' heads...
  • by ( 562495 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:58PM (#5669607) Homepage
    i want 2 copies of each CD!!! :)
    • by ryanr ( 30917 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @07:27PM (#5670432) Homepage Journal
      Can't we just buy the RIAA, and be done with? According to this chart: []
      if I'm reading it right... the various media companies had 12.6 Billion in revenue in 2002. That's revenue, not profit. The $97B still looks pretty silly, eh? Anyone know what the profit amount is? Surely it's much less.

      Anyway, for 250M Americans, that's about $48/year/person. How about we just include that amount in our taxes, and we all get all the free music we want? Let the record stores, P2P services, etc... all compete to sell $.50 CDs, all the downloads you can eat, etc..

      I'm sure the dollar amount will be much less if we just consider the profit amount, too. Then radio stations dont have to pay licensing fees, and the RIAA can let go all the staff who have to track piracy, thereby increasing their per-employee performance.

      We'll still let them exist so they can tell us who the top 40 are, who has gold "records", which record companies and artists get how much of the share, etc.. you know, all that stuff they are supposed to exist for.

      Heck, I've got more money and kids than most people.. I'd be happy to pay a proportionally higher amount to help subsidize poor people. Put it on my phone bill, $4/month, like we do to subsidize people in the middle of nowhere and old people.
      • I'm sure all the government overhead of starting something like that would eat up the 97 billion in a year. They'd have to create entire new agencies, then more enforcement agencies, congressional comitees, senate oversight comitees, and so on and so on...Then they'd raise the taxs saying that $48/year wasn't enough and they'd raise that tax because of course some people can't afford it.

        Do you really want to open that can of worms?

        • by ryanr ( 30917 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @07:43PM (#5670527) Homepage Journal

          Heh, pretty bad when I' rather have a government agency running things, eh?

        • Right... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by composer777 ( 175489 )
          Government has a terrible flaw, and that flaw is that it has the potential for democracy. Coprorations are perfect tyrannies.

          The problem with setting up a tax is that this is exactly what these corrupt, free-loading assholes want you to do. My response is, "Fuck you!". I'll pay their fees as soon as they reduce copyright terms down to 20 years, and give a substantial portion of their money to fostering competition in this corrupt, price-fixed industry. Until then, no thanks.
  • by djocyko ( 214429 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:58PM (#5669611)
    Oh, I just had to say it..

    Throw me a frick'n bone, people.
  • by The_Rippa ( 181699 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:59PM (#5669613)
    But Dr. Evil, that kind of money doesn't exist in 2003!!!
  • a little much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kmcg83 ( 634003 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:59PM (#5669614)
    U.S. gdp is 10.2 trillion...
    • Re:a little much? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dougmc ( 70836 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:31PM (#5669812) Homepage
      U.S. gdp is 10.2 trillion...
      Yes. Per quarter.

      So the RIAA is suing for an *estimated* (the $98T figure is an estimate, don't forget that) 2x the US's annual GNP.

      I wonder if they'll take a check :)

    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:01PM (#5669997)
      U.S. gdp is 10.2 trillion...

      No, the $97.8 Trillion figure must be right. Otherwise it would mean that the music industry plays with numbers, making things artificially high when it suits them and artificially low when it suits the need to cheat the artists. Since it's an entire industry doing this as a collaborative effort, it would even rise to the levels of felony crimes including racketeering if it were shown that they have a long history of bogus math behind their accounting.

    • by rw2 ( 17419 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:38PM (#5670225) Homepage
      People are focusing on the wrong thing. The point isn't $97T, $97B or $100K. The point is that the RIAA is finally going after a law breaker. They went after colleges and other carriers for too long even though *they weren't breaking the law*.

      Now they are going after the kids that actually broke the law and everyone is still pissed.

      Hell with that. These kids should be the ones being put to trial. Maybe now the laws can be shown for the unmitigated sillyness that they are and either shown unconstitutional or at least have a $97B judgement against some kids show the public how out of control this all is.

      This is the right suit. Let's make sure it's the right result by now dwelling on the RIAA and instead dwelling on the law.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The student is accused of using an SMB-crawling daemon to provide a campus-wide file indexing/search service.

        If you think that's illegal, I hope someone nails you to the wall next time you link to a site containing copyrighted material.
      • by Spy Hunter ( 317220 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @08:37PM (#5670787) Journal
        NO!!!! NO!!!! NO!!!!

        This is STILL the wrong suit for them to be filing. They are not going after these people because they are sharing files, they are going after them for running network search services. Services that have legitimate uses and do not host or provide any copyrighted content. The RIAA STILL doesn't get it. They should be going after the students on the network who were sharing the mp3s from their computers. The search service doesn't allow copyright infringement, it's the people sharing. The files are easily accessible without any search service. Unfortunately, I'm sure the judge won't get it either. These guys are going to get raped by the justice system.

      • Read the Friggin Articles!!!!!!! The RIAA press release is telling. [] They are really smoking some hardcore crack! They want to make LANs illegal!?!

        These guys made programs which allow you to search a network. The flatlan site seems to be down, but read this FAQ about Phynd []. It is a program which indexes the files available on various protocols (like FTP and Windows Shares). The RIAA could even use it to help find copyright violations. Instead they want to punish anyone who makes networking software. If th

  • by 3.1415926535 ( 243140 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:59PM (#5669616)
    Right, like the RIAA really lost $97.8 trillion worth of potential income from STUDENTS.
    • by 0x00000dcc ( 614432 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:06PM (#5669658) Journal
      Right, like the RIAA really lost $97.8 trillion worth of potential income from STUDENTS.

      They're about to loose the same weight in credibility.

    • by WindowsTroll ( 243509 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:10PM (#5670051) Homepage
      Neither the article nor the (law)suits state that the amount asked for is for lost sales. The amount of money being sought is the maximum amount allowed by law. This is for punitive and compensatory damages. It seems to me that $150,000 per song is rediculous, but this number came out of Washington, not out of the RIAA. In our increasingly litigatious society, the amount of money for punitive and compensatory damages is rediculuous, but our society has the general idea of "screw the corporations, they have all the money". This is a case of "the man" taking advantage of the same laws used against him daily. Except in this case, they have no hopes of collecting any money. The frivolity of their suit matches the frivolity of most lawsuits these days.

      Whether or not you agree with existing copyrights, or you feel that the recording companies are colluding to steal your money, the fact of the matter is, based on current laws, distributing copies of copyrighted materials is agsint the law. Instead of complaining about how "the man is trying to screw me" or setting up p2p networks to distribute mp3's, I would suggest that people who are against the RIAA and music copyrights work to get the laws changed.

      Instead of spending money on CD's, use that money to start an advocacy group. Donate some money to the EFF or some other organization who might be willing to fight for your cause. Instead of running a server to host your mp3's (bandwidth costs money and the mp3's have to originate from a CD at some point), discontinue these servers and use the money towards advocacy. Spend your effort changing the laws instead of flying the finger at the establishment.

      • by Phroggy ( 441 ) <slashdot3&phroggy,com> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @09:33PM (#5670979) Homepage
        It seems to me that $150,000 per song is rediculous, but this number came out of Washington, not out of the RIAA.

        And how do you suppose it got into Washington?
    • And the judge will laugh at them. If they had sued for maybe $100 or so, the amount a student MIGHT spend in a years time, it would be better. The fact that they shared them might fall under some other clause, but not for attributable software losses, for that they'll have to go after the people who downloaded all the files indivually.
    • One student, who was supposedly sharing 652,000 songs. At maybe 3 megabytes each, that's around 2 terabytes of data.

      I'd like to know how the RIAA expects anyone to believe one college student had that much storage, much less convince anyone that 98 billion is a credible loss figure.
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2003 @04:59PM (#5669618)
    That could buy a really large Beowulf Cluster.
  • Are there any students here from the affected colleges? What has this done to the volume of swapping on your networks? Are people eager to jump in and replace them?
    • by TC (WC) ( 459050 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:23PM (#5669767) Journal
      Are people eager to jump in and replace them?

      Student 1: Hey man, the mp3s are down... how the hell am I going to get my muzak.
      Student 2: Didn't you hear, the RIAA shut them down!
      Student 1: Crap. We should probably start something up to replace them, then.
      Student 2: You didn't let me finish, they're getting sued for 97.8 trillion dollars!
      Student 1: Hmm... on the other hand, maybe we should make a website about cats.
  • by Penguuu ( 263703 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:03PM (#5669636)
    "RIAA starts funding US military actions in countries with highest piracy rates"... you can buy many missiles with $97.8 trillion.
    • " "RIAA starts funding US military actions in countries with highest piracy rates"... you can buy many missiles with $97.8 trillion."

      Bush will personally sell you a Minuteman II nuclear missile along with the silo for $97.8 trillion.

      Perhaps this is the RIAA's motive. "If lawsuits and jail are not an effective deterent, perhaps we need a nuclear deterent to file sharing!"

  • High Prices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShishCoBob ( 516335 ) <shishcobob&shishcobob,com> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:04PM (#5669645) Homepage
    And we thought the prices of CDs were high before. If this is any indication of where things are going I doubt I'll even be able to afford a single cd.
  • by rritterson ( 588983 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:04PM (#5669646)
    Assuming a person lives for exactly 76 years.... With that sum of money a person would have to spend $40.78 every second for his/her entire life, every day, and including during the night. That isn't taking into account the massive interest it would generate. Isn't that amount of money larger that the GNP of the US for a several year period. Honestly though, how do they expect to prove that each and every song did $150,000 worth of damage. If each album has 12 tracks and retails for $15, they'd have to prove that each album he offered caused 120,000 less copies of that album to be sold. Please!
    • they'd have to prove that each album he offered caused 120,000 less copies of that album to be sold.

      No, they don't have to prove that. All they have to do is prove to the judge that the copyright violation was "willful" and the Copyright Act [] allows for the judge, at his or her discretion, to impose up to $150,000 in statutory, (not compensatory or punitive) damages [] per infringement.
      • No, they don't have to prove that. All they have to do is prove to the judge that the copyright violation was "willful" and the Copyright Act [] allows for the judge, at his or her discretion, to impose up to $150,000 in statutory, (not compensatory or punitive) damages [] per infringement.

        I'm just curious, but at some point, doesn't it make sense just to leave the damn country for good? I mean at least we can still come and go sort of freely (for now)...why don't we all just go? No country can have power witho
  • Remember (Score:4, Funny)

    by JCCyC ( 179760 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:05PM (#5669651) Journal
    John Ashcroft says there is no such thing as excessive punishment! (unless if it's drunk driving and snorting coke and you're in Texas and... oh, never mind)
  • They did the math? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silvaran ( 214334 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:05PM (#5669653)
    $150,000 * 652,000
    = $97,800,000,000
    = $97,800,000 thousand
    = $97,800 million
    = $97.8 billion

    I think they're off by, ... ohh, about a factor of a thousand?
    • by MeanMF ( 631837 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:13PM (#5669707) Homepage
      I think they're off by, ... ohh, about a factor of a thousand?

      I'm sure the students are breathing a sigh of relief that it's only $97.8 billion...
    • by idfrsr ( 560314 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:28PM (#5669792)

      You didn't use the RIAA special loss due to priracy arithmetic. Its the same calculations used to calculate what music the american public is going to buy and how much.

      Using this much more complex adding system, you will reach the result of 97.8 Trillion dollars

    • Oops...guess I should have double-checked their math before I posted--good catch! Even at $97.8B, that's still a whole lot of hours at a part-time Kinko's job. :-)
    • I think they're off by, ... ohh, about a factor of a thousand?

      The numbers were "fudged" because the student was in possession of 42X CD writers.

    • $150,000 * 652,000 = $97.8 billion

      There you go again with your fuzzy math. There is enough money to save medicare and social security and eliminate all taxes for people who earn $500,000 a year.

      Its not 97.8 Billion, it is 97.8 billion EACH, thats almost $400 million, which is more than enough to balance the budget. All we have to do is to seize the assets of the RIAA and imprision Paul Krugman as an Enemy Combattant and we are done.

    • by fname ( 199759 )
      Pathetic on so many levels:

      1) Reporter does the math wrong. This is usually a minor point, but happens way to much. But the reporter puts so much emphasis on how much it is, that it's inexecsuable. Take a friggin' math class!

      2) Their editor missed it. I knew within 1 second of looking at the numbers that their math was wrong. Someone should have caught it.

      3) Slashdot reader makes the same mistake. Cripes, does anyone know how to use a calculator?

      4) The /. editor is either dumb or did not read the articl
  • Flight Risk (Score:5, Funny)

    by spoonist ( 32012 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:06PM (#5669654) Journal

    Dude, I'm thinkin' that if I were staring down the barrel of $97.8 TRILLION dollar lawsuit, I'd be tempted to find a country without extradition treaties. Preferably a friendly, inexpensive country with a tropical climate and lots of nude beaches.

    What's the statute of limitations for copyright violations?

    Brought to you by:

    The United States of America(R) (A Wholely Owned Subsidiary of A Consortium of Multinational Corporations)

  • by FrayLo ( 146128 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:06PM (#5669656)
    It really bugs me when the RIAA calls copyright violation, "Stealing." This is not stealing music. If I were to steal music, I would walk into my local Circuit City, grab some CDs, and run out the door. They lose their merchandise, I now have their CDs.

    Downloading or having mp3s, as I'm sure every person who reads /. knows, is NOT stealing.

    At the same time, while I understand the need for deterrent from downloading copyrighted mp3s, I still don't understand why the RIAA seems to be resisting the method of distributing music digitally. Are they planning on going back to cassette tapes? We've got this incredible method of getting into almost everyone's home to distribute music and reduce their costs, and all they want to do is sue people who are allegedly taking their business away.

    Not that this is a justification of my downloading mp3s, but I wouldn't have bought probably 3/4 of the mp3s I have because I simply want one song off of the CD. If the record companies would just come up with a service that charged 25-50 cents a song, ...I'm such a music lover that I'd be downloading probably 50 songs a month, probably more. That's $25 that the record industry would get out of my pocket that they would have never seen before.

    • by Marc2k ( 221814 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:35PM (#5669844) Homepage Journal
      Not that this is a justification of my downloading mp3s, but I wouldn't have bought probably 3/4 of the mp3s I have because I simply want one song off of the CD.

      Trust me, they know this. Decades ago, they realized that they could make much more money by pushing LPs (Long Play) instead of 2-4 song 7" records. Early recordings were generally the artists' best songs, those which the record companies knew you'd gobble up. But for a few a little more investment on their part, they could throw in 10 or more songs on one record at double (or more!) the cost. Now you were being hooked into buying a whole LP just to hear your favorite songs. The record companies have had us by the cajones since then, it's either buy the single for $6, or buy the whole shebang for ~$12.

      There are VERY few mainstream artists today who can pull off a full cd of killer material, but a few are actually out there.
    • by fyonn ( 115426 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:35PM (#5669845) Homepage
      I agree entirely, I remember last year I heard an ad on the radio from the BSA telling everyone that "copyright infringement is theft". now as we all know, this is completely and utterly not true and so I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority. I told them of my concern and I even gacve them a court reference to a british court decision (I'm in the UK) where it was said explicitly that copyright infringement is not theft..

      you know what? they didn't care. thegist of their reply was "you know what they mean, now shut up and sod off"

      I was not very impressed.

    • by siphoncolder ( 533004 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:33PM (#5670199) Homepage
      There's a reason the music biz won't do what you suggest though, and it's such a simple and rational reason that you and the rest of /. will bow your heads with a collective "Oh.":

      Distribution control.

      A CD/DVD is something physical to which they control the production of, and can therefore control the sale of, but most imporantly: they have the resources that allow them to create and maintain the production of CDs/DVDs, in massive quantities. If you want worldwide distribution, you go to "The Industry" because they have the best resources.

      Now: take away the need for said resources in order to get your music heard. Charge by the song rather than disc, and remove the need for discs to be manufactured and distributed. Make up a site, advertise on the web, and buy the bandwidth you'll need to serve the song for a limited amount of time (because you will run into diminishing returns as time goes on and the song gets pirated into oblivion soon after).

      Plain and simple: that will get you money still, just lots LESS of it. Also, it will lose you control because now that the cost of production is gone, anyone can do it.

      This is why the industry will never (1) go along with the net for distribution and (2) why they will use their resources now to STIFLE this technology - they won't be the first to jump off the cliff, and if anyone else jumps, they're the 800lb gorilla holding the rope around their necks.

  • by VitrosChemistryAnaly ( 616952 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:06PM (#5669665) Journal
    How else are they going to buy more laws? I mean, come on, buying laws isn't cheap.

    That kind of money could buy a lot of laws.

  • Stealing is Stealing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RedCard ( 302122 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:08PM (#5669673)
    From the Article: "Stealing is stealing," Oppenheim said. "Those are major, significant networks. This was a student who created a piracy bazaar."

    Yes, stealing is stealing.

    Stealing is especially stealing when your corporate interests have bought and paid for laws, which are now being used to essentially ruin the lives of (ie: steal the futures of)students who never would have even heard your product had it not been for file-sharing.

    I don't agree with most arguments for file-sharing. It is common sense that the artists and lavels should make money for the songs, and there should quickly set up some usable system - a good one does not currently exist. When it does, I and many, many, many people like me will eagerly use it.

    But $98 TRILLION??? [choke] That's just stupidly extortionate.
    • I don't agree with most arguments for file-sharing. It is common sense that the artists and lavels should make money for the songs
      Hear, Hear. I don't condone the theft of media either, but the RIAA has behaved so poorly, I find myself unwilling to argue in their defense, even from a strictly philosophical *theft is wrong* sense.
      The RIAA is of course going to be disliked by heavy p2p users, but things like this, and lobbying to make firewalls illegal just serve to alienate themselves from reasonable indivi
    • But $98 TRILLION??? [choke] That's just stupidly extortionate.

      Yeah, I don't know exactly what they're thinking. Are they going to continue to go after students? OK, ultimately they'll get the cash value of a futon and an old stereo....$15...and the student declares bankruptcy. Are they attempting a deterrent (they are, I believe)? If so, good luck - college students know they don't have anything to fear, being poor, and probably don't care anyway. Are they going to go after the colleges, eventually?

  • IANAL... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:08PM (#5669679) Journal
    But I find it hard to believe that RIAA's legal weasels actually think goofy-ass numbers like this are credible. Never mind "in the public eye", but before the legal community. If the case proceeds before a jury, can anyone imagine the plaintiff stating the requested damages with a straight face?

    It's like a cosmic (and late) April Fools' joke.

    Again, IANAL, but I would have guessed that RIAA would have gone after multiple deep pockets in a "joint and several liability" mode. At least then, the numbers would be outrageously high by only about 3 orders of magnitude.

    And just when I thought the pigopolists had lost their ability to amaze and disgust...

  • by Sunlighter ( 177996 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:11PM (#5669698)

    The Eighth Amendment says: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    Are we talking about a claim of actual damages? If so, the RIAA is claiming that it and its members would have made up about 99% of the U.S. economy had this one person not pirated that music. Or are we talking about statuatory damages? In that case I think the eighth amendment would come into play -- that part about excessive fines in particular.

  • by geewiz45 ( 310903 ) <geewiz45&yahoo,com> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:11PM (#5669699) Homepage
    It makes me sad to think about someone facing that kind of lawsuit. So, to feel better, I'm firing up my Kazaa client and downloading some happy songs. I suggest you all do the same, just not on any school campus.

  • The legal fees... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NOT-2-QUICK ( 114909 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:13PM (#5669702) Homepage
    Sure...97.8 Trillion might sound like quite a bit upfront...

    However, after all of the lawyers take their cut, the appropriate RIAA officials remove their share and court costs are assessed, I calculate the net gain for the actual artists to be somewhere in the neighborhood of about $20 bucks and smack on the ass! :-)

    - n2q

  • by Osiris Ani ( 230116 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:13PM (#5669704)
    I think all university officials should be singing this tune:
    "If you agree that you're liable in any way, then you have no alternative to monitor the networks. You're putting yourself in a position that you can't possibly fulfill. Even if that were technically possible with the staff the universities have, monitoring the flow of information on college networks is contrary to everything schools of higher education are about. We're providing this access as part of an environment for learning and teaching. It's used by a growing, learning community."
    - Virginia Rezmierski, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Michigan School of Information and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
  • by Klaruz ( 734 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:15PM (#5669725)
    "If you agree that you're liable in any way, then you have no alternative to monitor the networks," she said. "You're putting yourself in a position that you can't possibly fulfill."

    This goes with what many people said years ago, networks, and possibly search engines should be common carriers. They shouldn't care anything about the content, they should just locate it and move it around. If the content happens to be 'illegal', go after the individual.

    This student, and the uni's network staff didn't pirate 10 gazillion songs, other people did. Go after them. The brain dead napster lawsuit didn't help matters.

    I'm waiting for the RIAA to sue google for letting people find mp3s, and AOL for running a broadband network that facilitates the sharing of illegal files.

  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:19PM (#5669753) Homepage Journal
    Ok, so I believe that the article is off in their calculations and it should be billion with a "B". At any rate, it seems that given the silly amount of money they are going after, the "accused" would simply laugh that sort of claim off. Yes, stealing is stealing. However, this sort of suit does nothing to help the RIAA's case. They would be far more effective by bringing more realistic suits in terms of dollar amounts that would actually perhaps frighten folks and keep them from posting media to the net for download.

    This whole music suit thing brings up another interesting exchange I had last week. One of the campus network guys was asking if I had any music on my workstation. I said yes, about thirty gigs or so, to which he replied, I had to take it off as the RIAA was "querying" systems on the network to determine if they contained music files. I replied as every song on there was purchased, paid for, and personally ripped from CD via iTunes, and I had every CD for which there was music for, I was not going to remove the music. Additionally, while my workstation was on the network, it was not open, the songs were not available to the outside world and anyone wanting those songs would have to hack into my system. So, no. I would not remove them. Even if the RIAA does somehow "query" my system, (Is this somehow possible if the system is "secure"?) they would be barking up the wrong tree.

  • Missing the point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DF5JT ( 589002 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:25PM (#5669779) Homepage
    You are all missing the point here:

    Whether you are talking frigging Gazillions or about one single Dollar, it doesn't matter, because you have already conceded that the student has to pay *something* and is therefore considered guilty as charged.

    That precedent, no matter how high the compensation for the RIAA will eventually be, will change the way people are going to use net.

    Either you live by the rules set up by the RIAA, MPAA, BSA or you are threatened to lose your complete financial independence, because the rules allow for a "swift punishment".

    Welcome to a world in which the consumer is criminalized to an extent that his risks of non-compliance are too high.
  • Running the numbers. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shadwwulf ( 145057 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:31PM (#5669810) Homepage
    Lets do some other math here using the following factors:

    Moneys sued for my RIAA: $97,800,000,000
    Average life expentancy in the US: 76 years
    Average cost of a CD: $15
    Number of Months in a year: 12
    US Population as of April 1st 2000: 281,421,906

    Which brings us to the following formulas:

    97,800,000,000 / 281,421,906 = $347520 per citizen

    $347520 / $15 = 23168 CD's per person in the US.

    23168 / 76 = 304 CD's per year/person in the US

    304 / 12 months = 25 CD's/month for their entire life from birth that each person in the US must by to be equal to the damages they are filing for.

    Now there is a possibility that there was a math error as some have suggested and it might be 97.8 billion dollars instead of trillion.

    If so that just breaks down to 23 CD's in each person's lifetime for every person born. Which there is no way in the world that one person could of downloaded that much.

    Given that they are roughly charging $1 per track(23 * population * average tracks on a CD) is roughly 97.8 billion.

    Then take into account that an average MP3 is about 5 megs, that comes out to 5 * 97,800,000,000, or 489,000,000,000 Also known as roughly 489 Terrabytes of music.

    Which brings me to the question who's network attached storage solution did they use to store all that alledged music?
  • by Helmholtz ( 2715 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:33PM (#5669830) Homepage
    I don't even know what to think about this.

    From an artist's point of view, does this help the artist? I'm not a musician and have never seen any of the contracts that the RIAA makes with its musical talent, but from a select few artists that have spoken out against the RIAA, I get the impression that file sharing is definately not the thing that's keeping money out of the pocket of the musician.

    So, if this kind of action isn't for the good of the artist, then is it for the good of the company? I don't run a business of my own, so perhaps I'm under some false impressions, but it seems to me that the number one goal of business is to keep your existing customers excited and to constantly be trying to pull in new customers. This action as far as I can tell does exactly the opposite on both counts.

    And what about file sharing in the first place. I still don't understand why the people involved in this debate keep talking like a 128k bitrate encoded mp3 is just as good as the original wav. Now this is something that I've personally investigated and analyzed, and can concretly say they are definately not of the same quality.

    And what about the statistics. Which do you believe? I've looked at the RIAA's statistics showing how much revenue they lose because of file sharing. I'm not a statistician, but I really don't understand how they can claim that every traded song would have equaled an album sale. I've also looked at the statistics of the number of album sales during the years of Napster. While Napster was running full tilt, albums sales were hitting record numbers. Napster gets shut down, and the sales plunge. Once again, I'm not a statistician, but it seems to me that if I'm to be asked to believe that every song download == a missed sale, then I must also believe that Napster _created_ song sales instead of decreasing them.

    So, once again, I'm back to wondering why the RIAA is taking such a hard line. I think that until we understand the motivations of the RIAA that things will certainly continue to get worse instead of better. Of course there's always the possibility that the RIAA doesn't really understand themselves what kind of road they're choosing for themselves.

    In a sense I hope things get much much worse. Perhaps when a school teacher gets thrown in jail because he/she played a copyrighted song in class the public at large will finally wake up, realize what they've lost, and take it back. I'm a firm believer that Freedom can never be truly lost, just temporarily suspended.

    Anyway, that's my little rant on the subject. I appologize if it came off as a confusing diatribe, but unfortunately I don't see anything but confusion when I think about the current state of copyright.
  • by prostoalex ( 308614 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:33PM (#5669834) Homepage Journal
    Will you accept a check?

  • 652,000 MP3s?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cfallin ( 596080 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:36PM (#5669850) Homepage
    Assume an average 3-minute 128kbps MP3 - about 3 MB. 3 MB * 652000 = 1956000 MB. About 2 TERABYTES.

    Did this guy have a 20-disk RAID in his box, or am I missing something?
  • by DeepRedux ( 601768 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:37PM (#5669855)
    Under US copyright law, the registered copyright owner can ask for up to $150K per work for willful statutory damages []. If the infringment is not willful, they can only get up to $30K per work.

    Statutory damages do not require that they show any actual loss or that the infringer made any money. They only need to show that they owned the copyright and that infringment occured.

    Also, this would be a civil case so the money is for damages, not fines.

  • 652,000 Songs? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:39PM (#5669866)

    Just to pick on a different number for a while:

    652,000 songs that the student was allegedly serving? Even at 15 tracks per CD, that's more than 43,000 CDs. Assuming they're just 3 minute long pop songs (no symphonic movement long tracks), it would take over 11 years to listen to them once, if you worked at it 8 hours a day.

    I did a search on Amazon's "Popular Music" section for "CD" and got 4117 hits. 11023 hits on "All Products", which includes computer books with CDs, books about CDs, and whatnot.

    Just how many music CDs are in print in the first place? No matter how dedicated a pirate, I doubt this guy has a collection of every track ever laid down on any medium by any musician.

    And if the music industry really is churning out this many tracks: no wonder they're crap.

    Incidentally, 652,000 * 150,000 = 97.8 billion, not trillion. But it's still a silly number.
  • so.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by digitalsushi ( 137809 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:41PM (#5669873) Journal
    according to some popular sites on the web, the human being is worth real rough about 2 million bucks, if you want to buy the parts, i mean. so at 2 million a person... (no really, at least one site told me 2 million- er.. this is the part where i wish i finished high school math (i was worth about 850k so bear with me) 97 trillion = 97 000 000 000 000 divided by 2 000 000. so ugh. thats like 97 000 000 divided by 2, right? so 48.5 million people. So the RIAA should just collect those college students and their immediate and distant families and stop when they hit 48.5 million people. then they can just pack 'em up and drive them over and shut the hell up.
  • by kc0dby ( 522118 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @05:50PM (#5669942) Homepage
    The fact that an MTU student was chosen leads me to believe that the RIAA isn't going to stop with the students. Perhaps they are hoping to receive a billion dollar judgement that the student will be unable to pay so that they may go after the university itself, citing that they allowed this sort of thing to go down on their networks, leaving the RIAA with a large amount of 'unrecoverable damages' Now, IANAL- but as a former MTU student, I have seen how much the school has "cooperated" with the RIAA. As early as 1998, I was removed from the dorm LAN due to my operation of an FTP server with an easily remembered password, which generated alot of traffic. By going after students early, MTU has opened themselves up to lawsuits due to making a pseudo-admission that they feel it is their responsibility to monitor the networks. Serves the 'U' right, in my opinion, for attempting to help the RIAA.
  • by TheDanish ( 576008 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:03PM (#5670009) Journal
    You know that when people file suit, the initial amount is always an insane amount. Now, what would be news is if they WON that amount. Like that woman who won 28 billion dollars from the tobacco industry. That amount was reduced by three orders of magnitude, but that's still a lot of money. I somehow doubt that the students will have to pay quite as much as the initial claim is for. That isn't to say that the RIAA is right or anything like that, but I just thought I'd let you know that before you jump to any conclusions... em, too late for that, I guess...
  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:03PM (#5670010)
    payments reduced to a comfortable amount.

    And the payments may even qualify as tax deductable.
  • by anonymous loser ( 58627 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:05PM (#5670021)
    Let's look at the numbers: 652,000 songs
    If we assume there are 20 tracks on an album (that's a large number, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt), that gives us 32,600 albums. Now, let's assume that every artist puts out an average of 5 albums.

    Using these numbers, we'd find that this ONE guy has successfully collected the entire repertoire of 6,520 different artists.

    The storage space required for all those songs (stored as mp3s) would easily be in excess of 2TB.

    I seriously doubt the RIAA looked at every single file to verify it was in fact a complete, *unique* song within the collection, and that the copyright to every song belonged to them. For them to do so remotely would require them to download continuously for ~23 days at 1MB/s.

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:24PM (#5670157) Journal
    1. Find student with mp3s.
    2. Sue student for $97 Billion
    3. PROFIT!!!

    Holy shit, it works!

  • by Michael.Forman ( 169981 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:26PM (#5670163) Homepage Journal

    The size [] of a dollar bill is 6.6294 cm wide, by 15.5956 cm long, and 0.010922 cm in thickness.

    A stack of one dollar bills worth $97.8 trillion would be 10 billion meters high or slightly more than 25 stacks of bills that each would reach to the moon.

    Laid end-to-end the bills would stretch 15.25 trillion meters. That's long enough to stretch from the sun to pluto [] almost three times over.

    That many dollar bills would cover the entire 68 square miles of the District of Columbia in a pile of bills two feet deep.

    Oh, wait. Now I get it.

    Michael. []
  • by recursiv ( 324497 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:28PM (#5670176) Homepage Journal
    That's Trillion with a "B"
  • by soulsteal ( 104635 ) <soulsteal&3l337,org> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:40PM (#5670235) Homepage
    I've got some downloading to do. I only owe them $687.3 million.
  • by rockhome ( 97505 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:43PM (#5670252) Journal
    Here is an idea:

    Why don't you all just sod off and NOT BUY ANY MORE CD'S!!!!!!!

    Then, the RIAA constituent companies will lose money and be forced to deal with the issue.

    Listen to the radio, got to concerts, gad, get out from in front of the computer(yes I see the irony), put down the porn and go out and do something. Read a book. A real book. Not some Piers Anthony sexual romp.

    Go to the library, sit, where it is free, and read book, for free. Grahm Greene's "The Power and the Glory" is good. Maybe "Heart of Darknes" by Conrad. Edmund Morris's "Theodore Rex" and "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" are good choices.
  • by Vinnie_333 ( 575483 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:49PM (#5670279)
    ... the RIAA has been heard screaming, "You are our BITCH!!"
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:52PM (#5670290)
    You can't really compare this to a "Library of Congress", so I'll try using the McDonald's coffee lawsuit as a unit of measure.

    The plaintiff in that case suffered third degree burns over 6 percent of her body from one cup of coffee. A jury awarded punitive damages in the amount of two days worth of profits from McDonald's coffee- which turned out to be $2.7 million dollars. (On appeal a judge lowered the award to $480,000- or about a third of a day's coffee profits- and it was finally settled for an undisclosed amount. But just to be conservative, let's use the 2.7 million figure, since that's the one everyone is familiar with.)

    $97.8 billion divided by 2.7 million means we're talking about the equivalent of 36,000 McDonald's coffee lawsuit jury awards. To get a punitive damages award against you this high, you would have to amass over 4500 gallons of overheated mediocre coffee- enough to fill 81 standard 55 gallon drums- and pour it all on an old lady wearing synthetic fabrics. Actually, more than one old lady. For that kind of money you could completely cover 2,173 old ladies in third degree burns over 100% of their bodies. McDonald's would have to sell coffee for 198 years just to break even if it did something this bad.

    Remember kids, sharing files is wrong!

  • The point is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by monoqlith ( 610041 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:56PM (#5670312)
    that it's incredibly unrealistic to say that suing the shit out of every pirate in the United States is going to have any bearing on the general trend. The other point is that the Music "Industry" itself is unnecessary - middle men whose only real job is to make themselves seem necessary. They need rouse themselves from their stupor and realize that they have to adapt to a new technological world or else die. The longer they think that scaring people and alienating customers will help, the more likely the eventuality of their death. They need to make it easier for the public to pay for online music than it is to get it at the moment. until then, they have no chance in hell. Moreover, RIAA serves corporations rights - if talent can proliferate naturally through MP3 file sharing, then why do we need corporations? RIAA is about protecting the profits of the music distributors, not the artists themselves.
  • Yawn... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheShadow ( 76709 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @06:59PM (#5670321)
    All this lawsuit will do is cause this guy to file personal bankruptcy and he won't have to pay a thing.

    The RIAA is just out to prove a point.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @08:23PM (#5670728) Homepage
    ...the RIAA has now calculated that total sum of money owned by all the pirates in the world now exceeds the total value of Earth. Because of this, Earth today filed for restructuring under Chapter 11, making RIAA the supreme dictator. All hail RIAA!

  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot AT deforest DOT org> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @08:33PM (#5670766)
    The problem is that the genii is out of the bottle. The whole idea behind large monetary penalties is that they're supposed be an approximately linear deterrent: double the amount of money something will cost you, and double the deterrence. But at some point large penalties cease to be an additional deterrent. Law alone simply isn't the right tool to influence behavior at that level.

    File trading is so easy and so desirable on the small scale, that it's impossible to deter it using the courts. You can't haul in everyone who trades files -- so you have to increase the deterrence by really walloping the few that you can. The problem is that there's little difference (to a student) between having to pay 97,000 dollars, or 97,000,000 dollars. Upping the ante by another factor of a million, to 97,000,000,000,000 dollars, isn't any more of a deterrent -- at that point it devolves to abstract numbers.

    Another millieu that shows the same kind of saturation deterrence is the drug war (spit). It's easy, cheap, and desirable enough for many folks to smoke pot, that the courts literally could not handle them all. Stiffer penalties don't work so well, because the penalties are already so unreasonably stiff that they don't affect most peoples' risk assessment.

    When this phenomenon occurs in photography, it's called "reciprocity failure" normally, each additional photon hitting a piece of film exposes the film the same amount, regardless of the actual intensity -- so you can photograph a dim object, with a longer exposure time. But for very long exposure times, that picture breaks down: the partially-exposed silver halide grains repair themselves in between photon strikes, so exposing film to a weak light source for a very long time doesn't have the effect you'd expect. It makes sense to think of file trading and the drug war as examples of deterrence reciprocity failure.

  • Its clear cut theft. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JDizzy ( 85499 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @08:55PM (#5670853) Homepage Journal
    It hard to target the poeple who simply download, and a bit easieer to go after the folks who are making music available for public consumption without a license (a student is't a radio station). It is much easier to go after the people who facilitate the prior two people's ileagle activity, and I have no sympathy for the student. He obviously wan't very smart, and dind't need to go to school anyways.

    I do think the $$$ amount is a bit excessive, but this fellow "created a bazzar of illeagle activity", as the article says. I would place the fine at $20 per unlicense song swap! Depending on the actual amount swapped it would bring the fine down into the hundreds of millions instead of billions.

    Encryption; Thats is what the file swappers are going to have to resort to. Terrorism in the eyes of the Justice dept, since only criminals/terroris use crypto! Hehe... They had better watch out cuz they might go from bad to worse, from the pan to the fire as Tolkin would say. I mean it seems obvious to me that in order to swap files people are going to have to embrace crypto on a person by person basis until crypto is a common notion in America. on second thought, what am I saying... this would hinder crypto... stay away file swappers! stay away!
  • by dfj225 ( 587560 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @08:55PM (#5670855) Homepage Journal
    Copyright laws were never meant to be abused in this way. Its a shame that our society has let this situation progress to the horrible condition that it is presently in. Reading this article reminds me of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, I really feel like never paying for a CD again. The thing that really boils my blood is that its a giant corporation that is sueing these poor college students, not the artists - the ones who should really own the music that they produce. The artists get ripped on their own works of art, and the consumer gets ripped off paying for it. The only people that win are the recording labels. I'll "steal" all the stinking music I want. Copyright laws were intended to protect someone from claiming that they produced an original work or idea, not to give mega-corporations the right to rip everyone off. Thomas Jefferson wrote about copyright laws and he said that the right of owning property is something that a society grants its citizens and it is not a natural right. The society can change how it looks upon property (copyright laws) at any minute. I think its time that we change the way our copyright laws work. If Congress won't listen to its citizens and only to corporations that pad their pockets, they it is time that we rebel! We have a right to rebel and change our government when they listen to corporations over citizens. This is something that our founding fathers, and many intellectuals throught history would support. Why are we letting ourselves get walked all over, when our country is supposed to be one of "freedom", "democracy", and "rule by the people"? We need to change this now before it is too late!
  • by stand ( 126023 ) <stan,dyck&gmail,com> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:49PM (#5671300) Homepage Journal

    Lawrence Lessig has a good response on his blog []...

    Let this extremism finally force recognition of the best response to this problem for now: a compulsory license with a large carve out for non-commercial "sharing."

    Time to write my Congressman again...

  • questions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bob dobalina ( 40544 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @01:21AM (#5671864)
    1) Why hasn't an organization arisen to challenge the RIAA? I mean, it's my understanding that being a member of the RIAA is *not* legally required of a record label. When one considers the tons of indie labels out there that, thanks to free downloading off websites and through p2p networks, it makes me wonder why large groups of independents that have good talent and catalogs, like Caroline, Epitaph, Six Degrees, all the way down to little labels like ESL, tru thoughts, fork in hand and others haven't forged an alliance simply to combat this insanity. This seems like a golden opportunity to seize the thunder of the big six and woo bands to the "free music" side of the aisle. But then, when one considers how often bands tend to jump around labels, maybe the problem is more endemic to record labels than just the big six...

    2) Speaking of bands, where are "the talent" in all this? why don't we hear from the bands beyond the occasional (apparent) nutcase voicing his opinion then going back to the label lounge? We keep hearing about how the big nasty RIAA is pimping their work and buying out their right to their creative work (if I have to hear Tom Petty's sob story one more time I'm going to puke), but why aren't so many top label bands coming out in favor for/against the RIAA behavior? Many of the A-list acts can certainly get along just fine no matter what label they're on, so if they can extricate themselves from the labels, why don't they? If Fred Durst really thinks mp3's should be free, why doesn't he just jump ship and release his band's own stuff on his own terms? Oh wait, he's VP of Interscope. Nevermind....

"I say we take off; nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." - Corporal Hicks, in "Aliens"