3 June 2020CopyrightSarah Morgan

Court upholds Cox $1bn piracy verdict

A Virginian court has mostly rejected US internet service provider (ISP)  Cox Communications’ challenges to a ruling which would see the ISP pay $1 billion to major record labels.

Judge Liam O’Grady of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia yesterday, June 2, rejected Cox’s request for a new trial, but said that the number of musical works in the suit need to be recalculated.

In December last year,  Sony,  Warner and  Universal secured a $1 billion award of damages from Cox, after a jury found that the ISP wilfully allowed its customers to illegally download more than 10,000 musical works.

The jury found that Cox had infringed all 10,017 works, and assigned a value of $99,830.29 to each work, for a total of $1 billion.

The record companies had claimed that they had sent thousands of statutory infringement notices to Cox, advising the ISP of its subscribers’ “blatant and systematic use” of Cox’s service to illegally download, copy, and distribute copyright-protected music.

In February this year, Cox  claimed that the damages award was “shockingly excessive and unlawfully punitive” and that the $1.1 billion sum is far larger than every other judgment in copyright infringement suits.

“The award of $1 billion appears to be the largest award of statutory copyright damages in history. This is not by a matter of degree. It is the largest such award by a factor of eight,” Cox’s motion read.

In the motion, Cox requested the court to order either a new trial to determine damages, or reduce the sum it owes the record labels.

Yesterday, the court rejected Cox’s request for a new trial and dismissed Cox’s arguments that there was insufficient evidence at trial.

“There is nothing before the court to suggest that the per-work award is improper; the court cannot usurp the broad discretion afforded a statutory damages award simply because the case is no longer with the jury. There is no basis on which to disturb the reasonable findings of the jury, and, therefore, the court defers to the verdict rendered,” said O’Grady.

However, O’Grady did conclude that the number of songs involved in the lawsuit would need to be recalculated, as there may be multiple copyrights in one song (both a musical composition and a sound recording).

“Sony will almost certainly oppose the adjustment to the number of works in suit as a matter of law. If there are two copyrights incorporated into one work, plaintiffs might say, the jury may have weighted the award differently,” said O’Grady. “But these arguments fail, as they fly in the face of the very statutory discussion herein.”

Cox is tasked with calculating and proposing a new number of works within 60 days.

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