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Viral video: TED Talk debunks the $58 billion cost of piracy

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What is the cost of piracy? Andrew just posted a great article about how illegally downloading music and movies isn’t stealing at all, and it’s wrong that we call it that. Yet, the RIAA and MPAA continue to assert that $58 billion dollars has been stolen from the economy due to piracy. Is this honestly true? How do these numbers add up? We’ve never known, until now. Rob Reid, founder of the company that created Rhapsody, held a great TED talk recently where he humorously tried to explain exactly how ridiculous the RIAA’s claims of damages are these days.

This video was posted about 10 days ago, so some of you may have already seen it. But if you haven’t, it’s worth five minutes of your time. Reid elaborates on many of his points in this blog entry.

“To me, the most depressing number in the presentation is the $150,000 maximum fine that Congress designates for ‘willfully’ pirating a single copy of a single song under the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999.[22] This number is grotesquely divorced from the actual damages and harm caused by a single instance of piracy. As such, it represents a naked perversion of “The Law” — turning it from a source of justice into a bludgeon for a powerful and cynical lobby. The music industry has sued more than 30,000 US citizens under this law. Since the consequences of losing would be bankruptcy in almost all cases, the crushing majority of defendants settled without daring to challenge the industry. As a result, the maximum $150,000 per-song fine has never actually been imposed (although one student is currently fighting a verdict of over $20,000 per song,[23] and a single mom was hit with an $80,000-per-song ruling,[24] which was later reduced, but is still being debated in appeal).”

He is currently writing a book called Year Zero, which should hit shelves in July. It’s about how aliens come to destroy earth because they’ve been sued so much by the American music industry. He says that “parts of it are made up.” John Hodgman will read the audio version. 

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