The Court already had granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on their claims against Defendants LimeWire LLC ("LW"), Lime Group LLC ("Lime Group"), and Mark Gorton (collectively, "Defendants") for secondary copyright infringement. The Court found that Defendants had induced Multiple users of the Lime Wire online file-sharing program ("Lime Wire") to infringe Plaintiffs' copyrights. The litigation is in the damage phase.
Plaintiffs identified approximately 11,000 sound recordings that they allege were infringed through the Lime Wire system. For the over 9,500 post-1972 sound recordings, Plaintiffs elected to seek statutory damages under Section 504(c)(1) of the Copyright Act.
"Squarely before the Court is a threshold dispute regarding Plaintiffs entitlement to statutory damage awards against Defendants: Where, as here, Defendants have been found liable for inducing numerous individual Lime Wire users infringe Plaintiffs' copyrights, may Plaintiffs recover from Defendants a separate statutory award for each individual's infringement of a work as to which Defendants are jointly and severally liable? Or, rather, are Plaintiffs limited to one statutory damage award per work from Defendants, regardless of the number of direct infringers of that work with whom Defendants are jointly and severally liable?"
The Court held that Plaintiffs were entitled to a single statutory damage award from Defendants per work infringed.
If one multiplies the maximum statutory damage award ($150,000) by approximately 10,000 post-1972 works, Defendants faced a potential award of a billion dollars in statutory damages alone. If Plaintiff's were able to pursue a statutory damage theory predicated on the number of direct infringers per work, Defendants' damages could reach into the trillions. As Defendants noted, Plaintiffs were suggesting an award that is "more money than the entire music recording industry has made since Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877." This result is absurd, the Court found.
In sum, the Court found that the most plausible interpretation of Section 504(c) is one that authorizes only a single statutory damage award per work against a secondarily liable defendant, particularly in the context of the mass infringement found in the context of online peer-to-peer file sharing. Accordingly, the Court held that Plaintiffs were entitled to a single statutory damage award from Defendants per work infringed, regardless of how many individual users directly infringed that particular work.