Cox Found Liable for its Subscribers’ Infringement of Copyrighted Music Files

On December 17, 2015, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria Division) found cable and Internet provider Cox Communications, Inc., (“Cox”) liable for contributory infringement as a result of Cox’s subscribers illegally downloading and sharing music files in which BMG Rights Management, LLC, (“BMG”) owned the exclusive right of distribution. The jury found Cox’s infringement to be willful and awarded BMG $25M in statutory damages.

The evidence presented at trial provides some background and context for the jury’s verdict. BMG’s watch service, Rightscorp, had detected approximately 1.847 million instances of infringement in which Cox Internet users offered BMG’s copyrighted works for download via the BitTorrent protocol. Rightscorp was also able to download over 150,000 copies of the copyrighted works at issue, which were downloaded directly from Cox subscribers. Additionally, there was evidence that 1) Cox received “millions” of DMCA takedown notices from BMG; 2) BMG provided Cox with access to a web-based “Dashboard” which included electronic copies of each notice that BMG sent Cox with a summary of the number of identified infringements for specific Cox IP addresses; and 3) Rightcorp sent Cox “regular and numerous” letters summarizing and detailing instances of repeat infringement on the Cox network. Cox admitted that it ignored the DMCA notices, the Dashboard, and the summary letters.

The Court instructed the jury on December 16th, and a day later, the jury returned a two-page verdict form with answers to four questions. The jury answered “yes” to the following questions: 1) Regarding direct infringement, “Did BMG prove by a preponderance of evidence that users of Cox’s Internet service used that service to infringe BMG copyrighted works?”; 2) Regarding contributory infringement, “Did BMG prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Cox is liable for contributory infringement of BMG copyrighted works?”; and 3) regarding willfulness, “Did BMG prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Cox’s conduct was willful?” The jury answered “no” to the fourth question, “Did BMG prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Cox has vicarious liability for infringement of BMG copyrighted works?” The jury then entered “$25,000,000” when asked “What is the amount of statutory damages that you award to BMG?”

The jury’s verdict that Cox infringed implies that Cox’s conduct of ignoring the notices and information made available by BMG and Rightscorp removed Cox from the safe-harbor protections of the DMCA.

As of December 29, Cox has yet to file a Notice of Appeal.

 

Image courtesy Pixabay.

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