06/02/2010 08:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The LimeWire Decision and an Old Joke

A recent column by David Kravets regarding the LimeWire copyright infringement decision contained this quote by LimeWire COO Zeeshan Zaidi, "The biggest challenge right now is changing the behavior of a generation of internet users to get them to pay for music."

The statement is correct, but entirely ignores the fact that for the last ten years LimeWire has been encouraging and enabling that very behavior.

Zaidi's quote reminds me of the old joke about the man who shoots his parents then begs the judge for mercy because he is an orphan. I would expect that the RIAA, just like that judge in the joke, is going to take a rather jaundiced view of any appeals for mercy from LimeWire.

LimeWire ignored the plight of songwriters and artists for a decade while massive music looting took place through use of their software. The evidence in the recent federal court ruling reveals that they knew about the illegal activity and did nothing to counteract it. Instead, LimeWire encouraged it.

LimeWire showed no mercy, but now begs for mercy from the people they harmed.

In a world of perfect justice LimeWire's CEO, Mark Gorton, would have to personally pay back every cent that LimeWire stole from thousands of songwriters and artists. Added to that would be a life sentence of community service finding jobs for the songwriters and artists he helped put out of business.

But the truth is, nothing will replace all the years and careers that were lost; artistic dreams that were dashed; and music that was never created.

Revenge may be sweet, however, it is seldom a good business model. I would hope that the RIAA will take a pragmatic view of all their options before making their final decision about whether they show 'mercy' to LimeWire.

If there is any way to leverage LimeWire's hundreds of millions of users to resurrect artistic opportunities for American songwriters and rebuild the ravaged infrastructure of American music, then the option should be considered. Preferably, of course, such a solution should not benefit LimeWire and Mark Gorton in any way that would establish the precedent of looters and their enablers profiting from their own wrongdoing.

As Zaidi said, it's a very big challenge to change the behavior of a "generation of internet users" who have never paid for music. No one knows that better than him because LimeWire is responsible for enabling so much of that behavior..