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How The RIAA Turned $17 Million Into $391,000

by Sean P. Aune | July 17, 2010July 17, 2010 8:00 am PDT

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has spent the past few years trying to intimidate people out of the habit of illegally downloading music from the Internet.  One of the key methods they have used to try to curtail the piracy is by suing offenders, and in most cases people settle out of court.  You would think that this wouldn’t be that expensive of a process just to send a letter or two, get an out of court settlement and you call it a day.

Boy would you be wrong.

RIAA policeThe Recording Industry Vs. The People blog is reporting that the accounting for the RIAA in 2008 has been revealed, and, well, it isn’t pretty.  Here is a breakdown of the three law firms listed amongst the top five contractors for the association that year.

  • Holmes Roberts & Owen – $9,364,901
  • Jenner & Block – $7,000,000
  • Cravath Swain & Moore – $1.25 million

So, just for those three law firms, the total comes to $17,614,901, and there were more legal fees spread out through their contractor report.  Boy, for all of that spending you’d think the money would have just come flowing in.

How does $391,000 sound to you?

Yes, you read that right, they spent $17,614,901 in 2008 to collect $391,000.  The sad part?  It gets worse:

As bad as it was, I guess it was better than the numbers for 2007, in which more than $21 million was spent on legal fees, and $3.5 million on “investigative operations” … presumably MediaSentry. And the amount recovered was $515,929.

And 2006 was similar: they spent more than $19,000,000 in legal fees and more than $3,600,000 in “investigative operations” expenses to recover $455,000.

So all in all, for a 3 year period, they spent around $64,000,000 in legal and investigative expenses to recover around $1,361,000.

It is obvious the RIAA is spending all this money in an effort to intimidate people into not file sharing, and it isn’t actually about how much money they collect, but it really does make them look sad and incompetent. Should anyone really worry about this toothless beast that spends money hand over fist for no good reason. How long can they keep it up?

The only people enjoying this whole thing are the RIAA’s lawyers, I imagine the RIAA itself is crying while consumers laugh at them.

What say you? Does this just look sad and pathetic, or is it actually sad and pathetic?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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