Happy Cinco de Mayo mis amigos!
It’s a lovely day outside –not to warm nor too cold, and not a drop of rain in sight. I can remember a year ago walking down the sidewalks in downtown NYC to pick up my cap and gown for graduate commencement with a friend, and the two of us stopping in a nice little Mexican place for lunch afterward. It was one of those days you couldn’t help but smile and be in high spirits.
The same can’t possibly be said for Mark Gorton, the creator of LimeWire.
The last development in the LimeWire saga came about in last year’s judgement, which I first mentioned HERE. Since that time, not much has been mentioned in the way of handing down real punishment –until now. Earlier in the week Gorton was brought to trial to answer for the “willful copyright infringement” he committed, encouraged and enabled on a mass scale. Gorton might be a strongly subsidized owner of a hedge fund and live a cushy New York City lifestyle, but if it were me, I would still feel at least a little intimidated about going up against the four largest record companies in the world. The RIAA is playing a major supportive role to the labels themselves, and in that first article, which came just days before an update released last night, they were still up in the air about how much money they hope to chase Gorton for, per infringed piece. The range spanned a “small” figure of $750 per work (in the case, the RIAA and labels are charging by album, not individual song) to $150,000 per infringement.
There’s no sugarcoating or buffering what will be minimal penalty of 7.2 million dollars for 9,175 albums to a maximum penalty of a mind-numbing 1.4 billion dollars, should the labels win judgement.
Like an exciting but semi-predictible cliffhanger, the trial is still in progress as of today but who doesn’t see the gavel coming down hard and fast on LimeWire’s founder? Sony, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI are not short on numerical evidence of LimeWire’s rampage and the attempted use of an “ignorance angle” as a means of protection for Mark Gorton is almost laughable. Previous attacks on the P2P service made it more than clear that anything from questionable, to downright illegal actions were taking place, so there’s no absence of fair and direct warning. In addition, the RIAA’s defense was able to remind jurors of the already cemented declaration that,
“Gorton had known that his users infringed copyright and he had taken no action. On the contrary, [the U.S. District Judge had] found that Gorton encouraged them to do so.” (again, that full article from last night is HERE.)
The other interesting ploy Joseph Baio (an attorney of Gorton’s) is presenting to the jury is basically a premise of “Music that is free is here to stay.” While the thought of this reality is saddening for music business, it hardly functions as a stable or helpful defense. Two wrongs don’t make a right Mr. Gorton, and just because your millions of users want to jump off of the legal consumption bridge doesn’t mean you have to build it for them. Furthermore, industry leaders across the world are well aware of consumer habits and the change in technological trends. Just because the individual labels are not putting out their own spin on a legal downloading service does not mean they are hiding under a rock. The ReThink Music Conference undoubtedly proved that in spades, and the acknowledgment of consumers wanting things for free came up several times in open discussion; discussion by the way, that included focuses like “The Future of Copyright Law,” which can be watched HERE. So trying to use an existing weakness as an excuse, like a skeleton in a neglected closet, is not going to work well for LimeWire since there is no secret about it and people are already working on ways to creatively and positively adjust to the consumer –particularly by exploring avenues in mobile devices and such things more.
I know there are some out there that feel relying more on those mediums for business progression is like pushing artists toward an avenue that can be perceived as damning and like selling out, (another fish for another day) but in the context of this situation, it’s a show of the people controlling the money trying very hard, to appeal to what people are asking for in a way that will let them retire and let listeners enjoy the artists they like. (Regardless of the audiologically deficient way in which they wish to do so. /end the subtle hint of my feelings on music’s applicable expansion of uses.)
And despite what Baio argues about other mediums providing the big players reliable financial sustenance, maybe he should read THIS little piece on how 250,000 YouTube views equates to eight dollars in royalties for songwriters? Ad revenue≠Songs sir.
For now the trial continues, but if I could start a pool of bets on how this turns out, I wouldn’t be shocked if Gorton’s own former LimeWire associate, Ted Cohen, jumped in on the action; given that he openly multilated Gorton’s claim to ignorance in a way that would make any soap opera backstab look dull.
“Cohen was hired in 2006 by Gorton and LimeWire. …According to Cohen, after he wrote an opinion piece in Billboard magazine that the labels should license LimeWire in “its then-current state” and after he began to set up meetings with the record companies, the plan was scrapped unexpectedly by Gorton. Cohen wrote, “[Gorton] said he had no intention of paying a dime to artists, labels or publishers and I should not be stating anything to the contrary. When I reminded him that he’d hired me to get LimeWire agreements with the rights holders, he said all he wanted me to do was to get them to leave him alone.”