First, let me just say that no, that title isn’t a typo. It’s probably not going to happen but that’s the possible number being thrown around by a class action lawsuit filed in 2008 against Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada, the four biggest players in the Canadian Recording Industry Association. (CRIA)
It seems that these businesses have a nasty habit of putting together compilation albums, releasing them and instead of compensating the artists involved, simply adding their name to a list. This list says that they’ve used music from said artist and that SHOULD they be able to find the artist in question, they’ll compensate them. At this point, the list dates back to the 1980s and apparently includes some rather famous people. We’re not talking local garage bands that broke up after college here.
The labels have already admitted to owing somewhere around $50 million. The list they’ve been keeping is really nothing more than an admission of guilt. They published and sold and profited from the artists on the list without fairly compensating them. Where the twist comes in is that the plaintiffs in the case are looking to score the statutory damages for each infringement! That starts at $20,000 each (with some running even higher).
Imagine if you just went and downloaded all the music you wanted and while doing so you kept a list of the songs you were able to get for free and this list was kept so that you could compensate the artists should you ever find them. I’m pretty sure that when the RIAA (or CRIA in this case) sued you, you’d be laughed out of court.
This is what labels have been doing to individuals for years and it seems only fair that they be forced to play by the same rules. Personally, I would contend that the labels should actually be responsible for more than individuals due to the fact that the vast majority of individuals who have downloaded music did so for personal use and not to sell or profit from the activity.
Turn about is fair play and the music industry has been suing old women, college students and anyone else they could get their hands on for years now. It’s good to see some artists try and take control of of their content and bring to light exactly how little the labels care about artists or music.