Illegal Downloads Don’t Equal Lost Sales, Judge Rules

Bob Preston
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — A federal judge has decided that one illegal download doesn’t correspond to one lost sale.

In the criminal copyright case U.S. vs. Dove, U.S. District Judge James P. Jones ruled that when seeking restitution for files downloaded through peer-to-peer software, companies couldn’t argue that one illegally downloaded song cost them exactly one legally sold song.

This case involves the music and mainstream movie industries, but Jones’ decision has the potential to affect all industries that traffic in digital downloads, including adult. The defendant in the case, Daniel Dove, had originally been found guilty of criminal copyright infringement. Dove got busted for running a peer-to-peer network called Elite Torrents. At his original conviction, Jones sentenced Dove to 18 months in prison and a $20,000 fine ($10,000 for each of his counts of copyright infringement).

But the plantiff companies wanted more. The RIAA and Liongate Entertainment asked the judge to penalize Dove for each of the individual files trafficked on his site. All told, if Jones had agreed with the RIAA and Lionsgate, Dove would have owed them more than $22 million.

In the opinion, Jones wrote that to equate each illegal download with one lost sale is a faulty assumption.

"Those who download movies and music for free would not necessarily purchase those movies and music at the full purchase price," he wrote. "[A]lthough it is true that someone who copies a digital version of a sound recording has little incentive to purchase the recording through legitimate means, it does not necessarily follow that the downloader would have made a legitimate purchase if the recording had not been available for free."