In what’s bound to be viewed a scary decision for internet service providers (ISPs), Cox Communications, a cable and internet company in Virginia, has been ordered to pay $8.4 million in legal fees to BMG Rights Management for copyright infringement.
This is in addition to a $25 million penalty levied against Cox in November 2014, Media Post reports.
The record company sued Cox for copyright infringement because the ISP’s customers were sharing pirated content, something BMG believes Cox could have taken steps to prevent. Despite Cox’s arguments that it should be shielded from such lawsuits under federal copyright law, the judge disagreed, ruling instead that Cox was liable. This was the first case in which an ISP was held liable for the pirating activities of its subscribers (although not the only one).
Cox appealed, saying many of the warning notices it received from BMG on behalf of its clients weren’t reliable; BMG argued in return that Cox took no action to disconnect repeat offenders found to be sharing illegally pirated content.
On Tuesday, US District Judge Liam O’Grady not only reaffirmed the original verdict, he ordered that Cox pay BMG’s legal fees. He stated that without such a large penalty, the cost incurred in such a legal battle might “deter other potential plaintiffs from seeking to enforce their rights.”
He also chided Cox for its leniency. “In a hard-fought litigation battle such as this one, discovery disputes and fierce briefings are to be expected, and they should not be held too harshly against either party,” Grady said, according to Hypebot.com. “Nonetheless, there are a few instances in which Cox’s advocacy crossed the line of objective reasonableness. In particular, both Cox’s attempts to obscure its practice of reinstating infringing customers, and its subsequent assertions of a deeply flawed DMCA defense evince a meritless litigation position that Cox vigorously defended.”
BMG’s defense of music rights and the intellectual property and copyright protections of artists is to be applauded, says David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers Association. “As defenders of music creators, we applaud BMG for standing up to mass music piracy enablers like Cox, and we echo Judge O’Grady’s words that awarding legal fees reward plaintiffs like BMG ‘for facing up against willful infringers with deep pockets.’ The Court’s firm renouncing of Cox’s conduct serves as a stern warning to web providers who turn a blind eye to music theft.”
The appeal filed by Cox is still under way, Digital Music News notes.