Add to Chrome
RIAA Defends Spending $17M to Collect $391,000

RIAA Defends Spending $17M to Collect $391,000

Say that tax returns draw a conclusion of its sue-em-all strategy that is “inaccurate and highly misleading,” and that its primary intent – fostering a respect for the rights of artists and convincing people to acquire music legally – has been largely successful.

A few weeks ago it was revealed that the RIAA has been spending tens of millions of dollars annually to enforce its sue-em-all strategy of targeting individual file-sharers with fines recouping as little as 2% of its overall expenses.

If spending $21.6M to recoup $455,000 in 2006 wasn’t enough, it spent $24.5M to recoup $515,929 in 2007, and $17.5 to recoup $391,000 in 2008. So all in all, over the course of three years it managed to blow more than $63.6M to recoup almost $1.4M. And this is just the years for which Jon over at P2Pnet managed to dig up tax returns for. Heaven knows what they spend from 1999 to 2006 in the heydays of P2P.

After taking a drubbing in the public eye for spending so much money to arguably do so little (music sales are still in decline and P2P is still rampant), the RIAA is now defending what it spent.

Jonathan Lamy, senior vice president for communications for the RIAA, says the numbers are misleading, that the legal fees cover a wide variety of costs like Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices, royalty litigation, and lawsuits against illegal file-sharing websites. Some of the legal fees span more than one year, and any resulting victory is calculated later on.

“Attempting to draw some larger conclusion about the effectiveness of our anti-piracy efforts based just on that one line in our tax document is simply inaccurate and highly misleading,” he tells the ABA Journal.

“Our anti-piracy efforts are primarily designed to foster a respect for the rights of creators,” he adds. “The idea is to raise awareness so fans will buy their music from legitimate platforms. And on that count we think our efforts have made a real difference.”

Lamy makes some good arguments, and it’s surely not as cut and dry as some would think it is, but the expenditures are still astronomically high compared to what it recoups. That’s why critics have a point when they say the outrageously high fines the RIAA seeks in court has nothing to do with actual damages, but rather in trying to send a message to other file-sharers.

It’s not about “raising awareness,” the game plan is to obtain multimillion dollar judgments and hope it will scare others. The problem with this is that you end up with cases like Joel Tenenbaum where the judge slashes the fine from $675,000 to $67,500 for “far exceeding any plausible estimate of the harm suffered by the plaintiffs and the benefits he reaped.”

Though what the RIAA spends on legal fees may not paint a clear picture as to what it’s going towards, the fact that it’s recouping so little in order to “foster a respect” or “raise awareness” means the real strategy is not justice, but rather scare tactics.

Stay tuned.

[email protected]

Jared Moya
I've been interested in P2P since the early, high-flying days of Napster and KaZaA. I believe that analog copyright laws are ill-suited to the digital age, and that art and culture shouldn't be subject to the whims of international entertainment industry conglomerates. Twitter | Google Plus

I'm a newshound, and in the typical news sources, the coverage of lawsuits for file sharing seems to me to have dried up. Now maybe I missed something, but if I'm not finding that news, what's the chances of the typical music loving file sharing person happening on coverage of lawsuits targetting filesharers? Suing the pants off someone does no good for the RIAA if the publicity isn't there, and if any publicity isn't seen by their target audience. I would suspect that those sharing files spend more time than most listening to music, watching movies, or playing games. They probably spend less time than most watching TV news or reading newspapers. Even if they win a lawsuit, the RIAA has to get that information out to folks who aren't connected to traditional new media. Issuing a press release is about as impactful as shouting it in the desert. Luckily for me I don't need to come up with a coherent strategy for the RIAA lawsuit effort, because I sure can't think of one.

Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson

Indeed. Exactly how effective are these campaigns? If they are spending that money on "education" campaigns, how effective has that been in practice? Are people flocking away from unauthorized sources and towards iTunes as a result? I doubt there has been a huge paradigm shift. Trying to enforce royalty? Isn't that what the copyright collectives are for? DMCA notices? Doesn't that require 5 people copying and pasting boilerplate threat letters and inserting flimsy time stamps and file names? Regardless of where that money is going (my guess is that, at the very least, it's a good majority of the money if going to lawsuits) If there was an intended effect socially, it hasn't shown up in the US. Of course, the monetary rewards also speak for itself. The RIAAs comments has not convinced me that they aren't throwing their money away wastefully.


Money collected via the RIAA that is being spend to persecute humanity should be going to us artist. Instead only the RIAA bosses in bed with corrupt lobbying lawyers are getting their fair share. Artists! Please unite, & sever your ties with the big labels. Only when all of their income sources dry will a revolution prevail, will artists be set free to do what they do best. Then we may even return to a day where the best creations are heard again and not some regurgitated bile. Remeber: Lobbying lawyers won't give two hoots about the RIAA when the RIAA can't pay their legal fees.

VyprVPN Personal VPN lets you browse securely