RIAA's return on $58 million in lawyer fees? Two Percent

According to tax documents submitted for the years 2006 through 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has recovered only a tiny fraction of its total legal expenses through "Anti-Piracy Restitution."

The documents, hosted here, here and here by p2pnet and highlighted by New York attorney Ray Beckerman, show the RIAA's top five most highly compensated independent contractors for these three years. This included the law firms Holme, Roberts, and Owen, LLP, Jenner & Block, and Cravath, Swaine and Moore, who received a total of $17,614,901 in 2008 alone.

These firms are often at the helm of the RIAA's piracy cases. The RIAA's counsel in Capitol Records et al v. Jammie Thomas, for example, included attorneys from Holme, Roberts and Owen; and Jenner & Block famously helped the organization win the case to get P2P service Grokster shut down in 2005.


While the documents do not provide any information about non-monetary legal victories such as injunctions, site closures, and licensing agreements that this $17 million could have earned, in terms of strict dollar-for-dollar recovery, the organization claims to have earned only $391,000 in so-called anti-piracy restitution.

The 2007 document shows that $21,223,792 was spent on legal fees (nearly twice as much as it spent on the salaries and wages of its own employees,) and $515,929 was recovered. In 2006, it was the same story; $19,419,701 in legal fees, which translated to $455,643 in anti-piracy retribution.

Ultimately, the legal fees for these three years totaled $58,258,394 and the recoveries totaled $1,362,572.

In other words, for the millions the RIAA spent on litigation ostensibly related to piracy, it has only recovered 2.3% of it.

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