In a shock decision, Cox Communications has been ordered to pay $1 billion in damages for allowing its customers to illegally download music.
EMI, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Universal Music and others sued Cox in June last year, accusing the ISP of turning a blind eye to the piracy of more than 10,000 musical works.
They say that they sent hundreds of thousands of infringement notices, but that the company only acted against repeat offenders in a ‘thirteen-strike-policy’; and, even then, account terminations weren’t permanent.
“Rather than stop its subscribers’ unlawful activity, Cox prioritized its own profits over its legal obligations,” the lawsuit read.
“Cox’s profits increased dramatically as a result of the massive infringement that it facilitated, yet Cox publicly told copyright holders that it needed to reduce the number of staff it had dedicated to anti-piracy for budget reasons.”
The damages amount to nearly $100,000 per pirated work.
The decision has, naturally, been welcomed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
“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,” says chief legal officer Kenneth Doroshow.
“The jury recognized these companies’ legal obligation to take meaningful steps to protect music online and made a strong statement about the value of a healthy music ecosystem for everyone – ranging from creators to fans to the available outlets for legitimate music consumption.”
However, Cox says it plans to appeal.
“The amount is unjust and excessive,” says the company in a statement. “We provide customers with a powerful tool that connects to a world full of content and information. Unfortunately, some customers have chosen to use that connection 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.”
The company has some grounds for optimism. Back in December 2015, the company was ordered to pay $25 million in damages to Bertelsmann Music Group for similar offences, but had the decision reversed on appeal in early 2018 and a retrial ordered. It did, though, settle out of court before the retrial was held.
However, similar lawsuits are pending against several other ISPs, including Charter Communications, RCN and Grande Communications.