RIAA Pockets Filesharing Settlement Money, Doesn't Pay Artists Whose Copyrights Were Infringed

None of the estimated $400 million that the RIAA received in settlements with Napster, KaZaA, and Bolt over allegations of copyright infringement has gone to the artists whose copyrights were allegedly infringed. Now the artists are considering suing the RIAA.

Lawyers who have represented artists such as The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, and Christina Aguilera say artists and managers are upset that they haven’t seen any of the settlement money the RIAA received after suing the popular file-sharing services. According to the New York Post, the artists are “girding for battle with their music overlords,” who respond that they have “started the process” of figuring out how to share the money, most of which was received seven years ago in a settlement with Napster. The RIAA also claims that there isn’t actually that much money available after subtracting legal fees. Whoops.

“INFRINGEMENT!” [New York Post]
“RIAA Keeps Settlement Money, Artists May Sue” [TorrentFreak](Thanks to Smitherd and Jim!)
(Photo: D.S.B.)


Edit Your Comment

  1. KenSPT says:

    I remember Weird Al did an interview a while back where he went into insane detail about how little the artists actually make, if anything at all, from downloads.

    RIAA are nothing but a bunch of bullies.

    • TechnoDestructo says:


      And there have been a number of recent articles about how artists, including big ones, are making most or all of their money from touring.

      I think it has become abundantly clear that everyone who predicts “music will be free” is right. What’s in it for an artist to associate with a label? Nothing for the ones that never got promoted to begin with. And that’s falling out of the labels’ hands, too.

  2. freshyill says:

    I am shocked! Shocked at this appalling lapse of ethics on the part of the RIAA!

  3. stubblyhead says:

    Hey, those lawsuits aren’t cheap.

  4. snoop-blog says:


  5. DrGirlfriend says:

    I like how the RIAA goes after downloaders in the name of the artist, accusing you of stealing money right from the musician’s hands,making him go hungry, and virtually erasing any chance for their kids to go to college.

    Guess Britney’s kids will still have to work at KFC after high school.

  6. evslin says:

    @KenSPT: I remember seeing that too, and I’m not surprised. It’s only a matter of time before the RIAA gets called on their bullshit.

  7. itsallme says:

    So, the end result is the same as if the RIAA just let people download music. Did we learn anything here? Yes, become a lawyer.

  8. enm4r says:

    So the parties on both sides of the RIAA do not like their practices…and yet the middleman continues?

    Thankfully I haven’t given a cent to them in a decade? Buying in foreign countries (often different labels) / direct from artists FTW.

  9. bravo369 says:

    RIAA better settle with the artists because with the Tonya Anderson class action suit that was given the green light and now the artists threatening legal action, the RIAA is going to have a war on both fronts and it will only end badly for them. Metallica led the way in their war against napster so i wonder how they feel about doing all the work and not having anything to show for it.

  10. howie_in_az says:

    @DrGirlfriend: Britney’s spawn won’t have to work after they write a book detailing her insanity and how it impacted their lives. Oprah will feature it as “hard-hitting” and “honest” and other such catchwords, spurring Mary Jo Housewife to buy a copy.

    Plus they’ll have a lot of money after she offs herself.

  11. snoop-blog says:

    so i guess lars WON’T be building that gold hot tub.

    god the southpark episode that spoofed this whole fiasco was hilarious.

  12. FessLove says:

    Haha, RIAA always talking about how they are looking out for the artists, and they are doing nothing but ripping them off themselves. Yay! I hate the RIAA!!!

  13. TheBigLewinski says:


  14. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:


    Radiohead isn’t doing too badly.

  15. LeopardSeal says:

    @freshyill: Who else is surprised by this? Anyone? Anyone?

  16. statnut says:

    So is the RIAA taking it seriously?

  17. savvy9999 says:

    What’s nice is that RIAA put all that blood money into a blind trust earning 8% YOY, so that once all these details get worked out, the artists’ grandkids would have straight teeth.

    No wait… ah, crap.

  18. uberbucket says:

    The RIAA’s a dinosaur with a broken business model, unless you consider litigation a valid revenue source.

    Evolve or get out of the way.

  19. Angryrider says:

    I bet the RIAA is going to make up some excuse like they should pocket the settlement money because they are working to protect the artists’ rights or some bull. And then they’ll say if anything, the artists should be paying THEM for their services.

  20. crabbyman6 says:

    @freshyill: I too am just SHOCKED they would pull something like this. Its like they’re interested in nothing but money! When did this happen to the RIAA??!!

  21. less_is_best says:


  22. urban_ninjya says:

    I guess Metallica and Madonna are on the right track by taking the fight against illegal filesharing themselves.

    The large lables are mainly for starving artist waiting to get discovered. When an artist makes it big, and still passionate about their work, they should start their own label or team up with a fellow colleague that started their own small label. Large labels (that are members of the RIAA) are pretty much like the Pimps. They deploy their Ho’s out on the street to hustle up some money. When someone is getting some tang for free, they go out and break their legs. When the Ho’s go give it out for free, they get bitch smacked.

  23. FessLove says:

    RIAA: “Stop stealing from the artisits! If you keep stealing from them, how are we going to?”

  24. bgrigson says:

    Okay, so shouldn’t the RIAA be forced to pay out of the $400 million before legal fees are enforced? Then they might feel the sting. Seems to me the artist should get their fair share of the reward otherwise what was the point of going to battle? After seven years they haven’t moved any closer to shutting down sharing than when it started. If legal fees are eating up that much of the settlements and if the remainder wasn’t put into escrow then the RIAA is clueless and I need to be a lawyer.

  25. ekoshyun says:

    rofl.. I laugh at Metallica and Dr. Dre. Pity the fools.

  26. ironchef says:

    all i have to say is


  27. TheSeeker says:

    2 cents per $0.99 download


    A recording artist describes it:

    “With our deal with 4AD I recieve $.02 per track downloaded.
    Do the math. I’m not getting rich anytime soon.
    I happened to mention this fact on my weblog, maybe last year, and asked if someone in the music industry could possibly explain why this is so and I was answered by Mr Martin Mills, owner of 4AD who took this opportunity to remind me of the massive overheads involved and other such ‘facts’. The dialog can be found in my weblog archives and makes entertaining reading, if nothing else. The whole issue regarding the exploitation of CT material is rather depressing and somewhat immoral.
    Please forgive me for living my life in the present and not always looking back to those ‘good times’.
    Speaking for myself, as I don’t know the arrangments of Elizabeth or Simon, the best thing that you can do these days in order to make sure that some of the money you spend actually goes to the artist, is to simply download some of the post CT work which is readily available on iTunes and many other download services.”


    August 08, 2006


    For anyone who is interested, my albums Imperial and Continental have just become available at the iTunes store. The exclusive EP Waiting for Dawn is also there and Everlasting will be available shortly. So instead of hitting purchase for some old Cocteau Twins track where I will earn $0.02 of the $0.99 that you are charged per download please humour me and hit purchase on one of my tracks so that I can earn $0.50 of the $0.99 that you are charged per download.
    It would appear that most of you folks imagine us artists as getting a fair royalty with digital downloads but actually the opposite is true. Old record contracts are adhered to vigorously and we, the starving artists, get fucked even more. If the there is someone from 4AD or any other fucking record company that would like to reply to this and explain to me the morality of paying the artist 2 cents per track then I, and I’m sure a lot of other people, would be interested in what you have to say. Don’t you just love this business? I’m getting close to where Henry Miller must have been when he published his open letter to the public asking for donations of paper and typewriter ribbon. Well, at least it feels that way when I have to shamelessly promote myself like this in order to guilt trip one of you slackers into downloading an album or two…. OK, what if I say please?, um OK what ever. – Robin Guthrie

    i’ll answer this, robin firstly, 4ad does not pay you 2 cents per track, it pays you 10 cents
    that’s more than our contract stipulates, because we didn’t think it was fair to apply territorial or packaging deductions in the digital space
    and the difference between our 10 cents and your 50 ? well we made the original financial investment in your cocteau’s music, whereas you’re making it in what you’re doing now
    for that we have the right to a return – ok, we’re making money, but we lose money on many other great artists, and the nature of a label is that you have to make money on some to allow you to stay doing what you’re doing whilst losing money on others – as you will know from bella union
    of course in the download price there’s also i-tunes margin
    we’re also doing all the work and paying all the expense on the cocteau’s tracks that you’re dealing with on yours – handling all the metadata, digitising, delivering, paying mechanical royalties, all that back room stuff

    so yes you make more on your own, and so you should…..bet your capitol and universal tracks don’t make you 10 cents a time
    martin mills

    Well Martin, it is possible that there is some miscommunication between yourself and your royalty dept but I think on closer examination you will find that CT receives 6 cents per download of which my share is of course 2 cents. Not much really, is it? You make a fine point about initial investments and the like, after all you did pay the 900 pounds for the recording of garlands but it’s very difficult for me to imagine that you haven’t made that back plus perhaps just a little profit in the last 25 years. Yes, as you said you have a right to a return, I wouldn’t deny you that and I am, of course, grateful to be in the position that I’m in now as it is due, in part, to your support of CT over the years. But that is neither the point not the issue here. The issue is that you are making a disproportionate amount of money from downloads. A dollar is quite simply a dollar and if the subject was approached with any sense of ethics or morality then the artist share would be somewhat higher than it is at the moment. We are talking about catalogue items here, music which has been turning you a healthy profit for many, many years. There is no new investment, no packaging, no marketing, merely a cynical way to expand your profits at the expense of the artist. With the advent of the necessary technology to make digital distribution a reality should come a reappraisal of how the system works. I presume that on our original contract you are still deducting 10% for breakages during manufacture and the like, something that was out dated in contracts even in 1981 when it was signed – well I can’t remember any Cocteau Twins records released as 78 rpm’s anyway….
    Well that’s you’re thing and I guess you don’t lose much sleep over it but from my viewpoint, somewhere I like to call the moral high ground, I think it’s a little seedy and more than a little greedy. What you may have lost contact with, existing in the elevated stratosphere of being a big music industry tycoon, is that these things affect peoples lives and their ability to continue producing the art which, not only makes you cash, but can also touch the audience in such a way that the world becomes a more beautiful place. I am blessed for I know how that feels. I guess you don’t. I suppose it may be easy to forget if you have your head in spreadsheet all day but if you look deep inside yourself you may remember a certain enthusiasm for more than just exploiting young bands. A passion for music perhaps. You’re in a powerful position, you could actually use that power for some good, don’t you know. You don’t have to be magnanimous, only just. Sure there will always be willing victims lining up waiting for their chance of fame and success, so I doubt that my words will have any impact on you, I don’t expect you to become a charity for fucks sake, but I would expect you to remember that the bands that you exploit and the music that they created are the people who put you where you are today.
    Excuse me if that sounded a bit harsh but, well you know, knowing that a huge body of my work and a huge chunk of my life benefits neither myself, Liz or Simon and in the future will not benefit our children is, well how can I put it, fucked.
    For our next discussion Mr Mills and myself will discuss the merits of selling Cocteau Twins records as Mid-Price releases thus avoiding paying any substantial royalties whatsoever.

  28. TheSeeker says:

    2 cents or 50 cents per download


    A recording artist discusses the topic at the link.

    “With our deal with 4AD I recieve $.02 per track downloaded.
    Do the math. I’m not getting rich anytime soon.”

  29. axiomatic says:

    The artists were dumb to think they would ever get a dime in the first place.

    Mitch… Cary… you got some “splain-in'” to do.

    Musicians, Dump the RIAA, here is your chance for “breach of contract.” FLEE!

  30. Kounji says:

    Ironic that RIAA would sit on soooo much money once the lawsuits were finished. 3 years was long enough, but come on we’re going on seven years and they still haven’t gotten any money. I wish I could go back in time and tell the artists, the RIAA is going to screw you far worse than we are.

  31. morsteen says:

    I can’t really laugh at the artists who started taking a stand for illegal downloading, being a musician myself I can definitely see how badly it is on the pocketbook and how you really need every penny you possibly could just to not even come close to breaking even. I just spent a grand for a 4 song e.p. to be recorded (32 hrs of time). Then you’re expected to give it away? yeah right. This is work, and it’s pretty hard work at times, and we’re expected to pay for the privilege of working? Yes it’s glamorous when you get big i guess and it would be cool to be famous and shit, but there’s so much work involved in so many aspects, do you pay your boss to go to work? i think not. And like everything else the bigger you get, the more expenses you have it just doesn’t go away because your huge. Sure you obviously finally make enough money to live a very nice life, but ever thought about how much money goes in to a huge ass tour?
    The RIAA are a bunch of idiots though, I will give them that. Finally get the money back and the artists won’t even see it? Total bullshit if you ask me. Fucking idiots everywhere, it’s an epidemic, no common sense anymore.

  32. Blueskylaw says:

    All the RIAA has to say is that the lawsuit took 4 hours to argue and since they charge $100 million an hour they just managed to break even.

    What profit?

  33. bohemian says:

    I pretty much expected this outcome. It is the exact business model of ASCAP. They shake down bars for about 10 grand for performance fees claiming local bands doing covers or a DJ or a jukebox is performance. Bars get intimidated and pay it or quit having bands. Musicians never see a penny. I know someone who has never seen a penny from ASCAP on material they know has been on the radio and performed live extensively.

    This whole thing just needs to die and the model needs to change to buying direct from the performer.

  34. sagis says:

    I’m sure the RIAA CEO and CFO and CxO have all already seen their annual bonuses, ahm, lets say 500,000$ a head?

  35. 40-something years and the Stones still can’t get no satisfaction? I guess it’s time for the RIAA to learn that they can’t always get what they want.

    Also, Paint It Black. Can’t figure out a good pun for that title which’ll fit here, but I just love the Stones and wanted to get one more in there.

  36. FLConsumer says:

    @chus3r: There is a chance that a judge would rule that RIAA owes the artists money OVER/regardless of their legal fees. It’s not the judge’s/downloader’s fault that the RIAA hired overpriced attorneys who were better at racking up fees than making effective cases.

    The whole music industry needs to be overhauled. It didn’t really make sense 50 years ago and it truly doesn’t make sense now. Bands don’t need the large labels like they used to. Throw something up on MySpace and pass out a few free CDs at concerts (yes, heaven forbid, give some work away to get more) and if you’re good it’ll take off.

    A real problem is that most small bands think they’re far better and far more unique than they really are. Not everyone has what it takes to be a nationwide star. Very few do. I’d even argue that most of the top 40 artists today don’t and are only being propped up by the large labels who have (over)invested too much money into them and are trying to recoup their investment.

  37. azntg says:

    @bohemian: Indeed.

    Rest in Hell, RIAA, MPAA and all you scumbag organizations. You really can’t play on both sides and expect to win unscathed at the end!

  38. Sven.T.Sexgore says:

    To the artists:
    Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it!

    Do it now — realize they aren’t there to help you only to help themselves.

  39. morganlh85 says:

    ooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh the irony.

  40. Marko_Vulvic says:


    Umm….last time I checked a label gets basically NOTHING from merchandise, items sold at shows or tickets to concerts, unless you have the worst deal around.

    People copied tapes, and that was supposed to KILL ALL MUSIC OH NOSE!!! And….um…well, it didn’t…

    The sheet music industry got a real ass-kicking around 1920, but did MUSIC die? Of course not.

    People assume format = everything. Formats are abstracts designed by labels to stranglehold art.

    So you spent a grand on your EP? Book some shows. If you can’t make that back playing a half dozen shows, would you have sold any copies anyways?

  41. TechnoDestructo says:

    Big names still get well-paid, because they aren’t being fucked over much worse than the smaller artists, but are doing a lot more business. I wouldn’t worry about Ms. Spears’s or her kids’ finances.

    Besides, big names are what the recording industry wants. Fewer acts and less variety means less overhead. You WILL like what they tell you to like, because it’s good for their bottom line. Hey, Clearchannel’s playing ball, why aren’t you?

  42. Mykro says:

    I wonder if Metallica started this… If so, its the 2nd time they did something right.
    (1st was cutting their hair)

  43. cde says:

    @Marko_Vulvic: I bet the last time you check was never and/or over 10 years ago. Current contracts with new artists has the label involved with both Merch and Touring.

  44. DrGirlfriend says:

    @TechnoDestructo: I’m not really worrying baout her. I was just being facetious.


  45. Id_LQQK says:

    RIAA is equivalent to the lady who got millions for spilling McDonald hot coffee on her self. Only they never got hurt, just made the issue and collected the money.
    Somebody needs to put some ice on that. I think Ozzy should go bite the RIAA’s head off.

  46. cordeduroi says:

    If you want your favorite musicians to actually get they money for their album sales, BUY THE ALBUM DIRECTLY FROM THE ARTIST! Go to their website/MySpace and find out how to buy the albums direct, or buy the albums from them at one of their shows. The artist will make at least 25% profit this way, and the RIAA gets NOTHING.

    Or if that’s not possible, buy the album USED. It doesn’t help the artist, but the RIAA also gets NOTHING from the sale.

  47. BugMeNot2 says:

    But if they didn’t pay their lawyers 100 million an hour, how would they come up with attack flowcharts like this?


  48. taka2k7 says:

    all I can say to the artists is…. go for it!!!! f#$% the riaa!!

  49. con-sue-md says:

    The RIAA should develop an illegal file sharing network and then randomly sue people for using it. Equally ridiculous.

  50. ageshin says:

    There used to be things called record stores and one would go into them and after brousing around, one could then buy the record he or she liked. Then cds came and the record stores became cd stores, and then nothing. I love classical music I would pay for a cd or even a record. The music biZ seems to have not only destroyed itself, but it is now in the business of destroying the consumer as well. A pocks on all of the lousy sobs.

  51. I’m not surprised by this. I vote that if a company has won the award “Worst Company in America”, then they are forced to keep said title until something extremely redeeming is done, which we know won’t happen.

    The RIAA should be allowed to keep the title until they fold, they deserve it and they try very hard to keep it! The evidence exists they like being known as that, I mean look at what they did for us to have this place to comment in :)

    Anyway, such a shame, poor artists. They have been getting screwed for years and somehow expected things to change when an enemy, by the name of “consumers” (aka pirates), appeared. I guess they thought with a common enemy, the RIAA would be more sympathetic instead of apathetic as always.

  52. aphexbr says:

    @morsteen: No offense, but that’s the typical siren cry of the failed artist.

    1. Nobody says you have to give it away. There’s plenty of legal download sites you can do business with from iTunes and Amazon, to eMusic and WE7. According to a recent post on his blog, Trent Reznor paid just $38 to get his latest releases on Amazon through Tunecore. Can you honestly not try and make some cash back on that?

    2. I’m always impressed when artists complain on these kind of forum posts, yet never mention who they are. Who are you? Is Morsteen your recording name? Are you available for download anywhere? Do you have a website or MySpace profile where anyone reading about your plight can listen to and perhaps purchase your music?

    If the answer to these is no, your problem is marketing, not piracy. You failed to promote yourself in any meaningful way on an international public forum (even mentioning your recording name could get interested parties looking at your music), so if you’re failing to make a profit with music you need to learn how to market yourself.

    3. Who says you have to go on a “big ass tour”? Surely there’s bars, coffee houses and clubs you could play at within a few hours drive of where you live? Build up some grassroots support and you might be able to make a living. Not get rich – make a living.

  53. aphexbr says:

    Oh, almost forgot – the URL you have in your profile, where you could promote your music? It’s a dead link.

  54. Project Thanatos says:


  55. meneye says:

    At this point the more people who loath entirely the RIAA the better.

  56. YouCanEatMe says:

    @Mykro: Yeah, newsflash..
    Metallica stopped being a half decent band in 1990.

  57. ne1butu says:

    I haven’t bought a single CD in over ten years. I do cherry pick the songs I want on Itunes, but I can’t support the CD industry and I will never purchase a crummy Sony product of any kind again.

  58. lostalaska says:

    Welcome to the music industry artists, it looks like you’ve got another leech you’re gonna have to burn before you stop it from sucking you dry.