23 December 2019CopyrightSarah Morgan

ISP hit with $1bn damages in music piracy suit

Sony, Warner and Universal secured a $1 billion payout of damages from Cox Communications last week, after a jury in Virginia found that the internet service provider (ISP) wilfully allowed its customers to illegally download music.

On Thursday, December 18, a jury at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that Cox Communications had vicariously or contributorily infringed more than 10,000 musical works.

Sony, Warner, Universal and several other record companies sued Cox Communications in July last year, accusing the ISP of deliberately refusing to “take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its internet services to infringe on others’ copyrights”.

The record companies said 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.

“Rather than working with plaintiffs to curb this massive infringement, Cox unilaterally imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of infringement notices it would accept from copyright holders, thereby willfully blinding itself to any of its subscribers’ infringements that exceeded its ‘cap’,” said the suit.

The record companies also said that Cox had claimed to have implemented a “thirteen-strike policy” before terminating service of repeat infringers but, in reality, never permanently terminated its subscribers.

“The reason for this is simple: rather than stop its subscribers’ unlawful activity, Cox prioritised its own profits over its legal obligations,” said the claim.

Last week, a jury found that Cox had vicariously or contributorily infringed all 10,017 works, assigning a value of $99,830.29 to each work, for a total of $1 billion.

Kenneth Doroshow, chief legal officer of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), said: “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message—Cox and other ISPs that fail to meet their legal obligations to address piracy on their networks will be held accountable.”

In response to the development, Cox said that the verdict is “unwarranted, unjust and an egregious amount”.

It added: “Today, you can download a song for a dollar. This verdict is for nearly $100,000 per song. We plan to appeal the case and vigorously defend ourselves.”

According to Cox, some of its customers have chosen to use its services for wrongful activity. “We don’t condone it, we educate on it and we do our best to help curb it, but we shouldn’t be held responsible for the bad actions of others,” said the ISP.

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More on this story

14 August 2019   A number of music publishers have filed a status report accusing internet service provider Cox Communications of obstruction, delay and gamesmanship in a dispute over its monitoring of pirated content across its networks.
3 February 2020   US internet service provider Cox Communications wants a new trial after it was ordered to pay $1.1 billion in damages to leading record labels including Universal for music copyright infringement.