How Much Is Your Stolen Music Worth?

Last month, a student at the University of Arizona was sentenced to three years probation and a $5,400 fine for illegally distributing music and movies on the Internet. A spokesman for the recording industry claims investigators found more than $50 million worth of pirated material on his computer. That seems like an awful lot of money. How much is stolen music worth?

A lot more than you might think. Since a song costs only 99 cents on iTunes, and movies go for less than $20 on, it seems impossible to amass $50 million worth of entertainment on one computer. (Indeed, even if you could find 50.5 million songs or 2.5 million movies to download, they would take up hundreds of terabytes of disk space, which would itself cost a fortune.) But in some court cases, the value of a pirated file is based not on its retail price, but on the damages done to the company that legally produces and sells it.
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