Music publishers finally pull the trigger, sue an ISP over piracy

Lawsuit says Cox blew off copyright notices from two Rightscorp clients.

Ars Technica, By Joe Mullin, November 28

BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music have sued Cox Communications for copyright infringement, arguing that the Internet service provider doesn’t do enough to punish those who download music illegally.

Both BMG and Round Hill are clients of Rightscorp, a copyright enforcement agent whose business is based on threatening ISPs with a high-stakes lawsuit if they don’t forward settlement notices to users that Rightscorp believes are “repeat infringers” of copyright.

There’s little precedent for a lawsuit trying to hold an ISP responsible for users engaged in piracy. If a judge finds Cox liable for the actions of users on its network, it will have major implications for the company and the whole cable industry. It’s one thing to terminate an account on YouTube, but cable subscribers can pay well over $100 per month—and BMG and Round Hill claim that they’ve notified Cox about 200,000 repeat infringers on its network.

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It’s a question most big rightsholders haven’t been eager to resolve in court, because it’s a huge gamble. A copyright-maximalist outcome could give them more enforcement tools, but if legal precedent gets set in a defense-friendly way, they could end up with far less leverage over ISPs than they have now. Since most major ISPs are compromising on the issue and slowly moving forward with a “six strikes” system, there’ve been incentives on both sides not to go to the mat on this issue.

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