Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Cost of Suing: Gene Simmons Edition

  Just because I'm bored out of my skull of doing probability homework, I thought I would do the math of Gene Simmon's recent proposal that the RIAA should sue every Peer-To-Peer user. Using this Ars Technica article for numbers and process, lets begin.
  1.   How many Peer-To-Peer users are out there? Well, that really isn't all too clear. Ars Technica (who first wrote about the comments of Mr. Simmons), estimates the number of peer-to-peer users to be around 60 million from 2005. We're in late 2010. That 60 million has most likely ballooned into something MUCH, MUCH larger. Just keep that in mind as we keep doing these calculations. So for the sake of working with numbers, there are 60 million estimated peer-to-peer users globally. 
  2.   So now that we have our total number of P2P users, lets look at the number of filings the RIAA does per year. Once again, Ars Technica points out that its between 18,000 to 20,000. Average it out, and it's about 19,000. So 19,000 filings a year to P2P users. Ars Technica goes on to multiply that number by the total number of P2P users to compute the cost of suing everyone. But that doesn't give us anything. We need to find the cost of each individual legal filing and multiply it by the total number of P2P users. Well here's the thing, the cost of P2P legal filings is really unknown. But just so you get an idea of the hoops the RIAA jumps through to get these filings out, not taking into account the time and money spent on finding the infringer's in the first place, lets look at it step by step.
    1.   They contact their legal team, or a legal team to send a notice to a suspected infringer. There are all the legal fee's and overhead associated with that all. They eventually send a letter out, which needs to be paid, and they wait to hear back from the accused.
    2.   They hear back from the suspected infringer. If the infringer decides to take it to court, they begin the long process of a trial, which brings with it its own set of legal fees and overhead. Then once a verdict is reached, someone may or may not appeal. Should one party decide to appeal then there are all of those legal fees and overhead to pay, and a possible retrial, which again brings in more legal fees and costs that need to be paid.
      1.   BUT, if the accused decides on an out of court settlement, then there are still many legal fees that need to be paid before the process is over and done with. 
  I really hope the cost of just one case is starting to sink in, because if not, I have failed.
  So that was just a picture of what one lawsuit would look like. But for the sake of using numbers lets use Ars Technicas way of computing the total cost of suing every P2P user. So we have the average 19,000 filings a year and 60 million users. Multiply the two and we get 1,140,000,000,000. Throw a dollar sign on that and we get $1,140,000,000,000. HOLY S**T! One trillion, 140 billion dollars. or just 1.14 trillion dollars. That isn't the most accurate number (number of users has grown, actual cost of one legal filing is unknown, and number of legal filings a year is a useless number), and its already astonishing.
  Knowing this, would Gene Simmons still support suing every P2P user out there? Of course. So long as he didn't have to front the bill. I know the dude is worth and has some serious amount of money, but even though he says the entertainment industry should do everything it can to stop piracy, I'm sure he and the entertainment industry can find a better way to spend 1.14 trillion dollars, even if they had it. Oh, I know, start a foundation or work with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to promote the arts and creativity in the developing world. 
  *GASP!* GENIUS! I should patent and trademark that!

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