7 October 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

ISP rejects Universal, RIAA’s ‘flimsy’ copyright claims

A US internet service provider (ISP) is fighting back against music copyright owners’ infringement accusations with counterclaims over the music industry’s “fraudulent business practices”.

In a brief filed at the US District Court for the District of New Jersey this week, RCN denied liability in a lawsuit brought by Universal Music and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

In the complaint, Universal and the RIAA accused RCN of enabling music piracy by its customers. The label and recording association brought the case alongside copyright enforcement company Rightscorp.

Music copyright owners have previously proven successful in holding ISPs liable for their customers’ infringement. In June this year, a Virginia judge upheld a $1 billion copyright judgment in favour of Sony and Warner against Cox Communications.

RCN is looking to avoid a similar finding with new counterclaims filed against the plaintiffs, accusing them of failing to substantiate their liability accusations.

“RCN’s counterclaims are based on Rightscorp’s, the RIAA’s, and the record labels’ unfair and fraudulent business practices in generating and sending millions of unsupported emails accusing RCN’s customers of BitTorrent-based copyright infringement, while intentionally destroying the evidence necessary to determine whether any of those accusations were true,” the ISP’s reply said.

According to RCN, the objective of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit is to “force ISPs to treat all copyright infringement accusations, no matter how flimsy, as legitimate”.

RCN said it had received “millions of emails” from Rightscorp notifying it of alleged infringement, but that none of these contained any evidence.

The plaintiffs argue that RCN’s failure to address notices of infringement render it liable for its customers’ piracy.

“In a sane world, only actual, verifiable evidence of copyright infringement would provide a sufficient basis for an ISP to terminate the internet access of a customer. But that is not the world the Record Labels and the RIAA want to live in,” the ISP replied.

RCN also accused RightsCorp of misleading the ISP’s customers in seeking settlement fees as low as $20.

“Rightscorp leads accused infringers to believe that a payment will conclusively resolve the matter, when in fact there may be other rights-holders who could still assert a copyright infringement claim based on the same alleged conduct,” said the brief.

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