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A trio of lawsuits from Voltage Pictures and other copyright owners against internet service providers for refusing to expel customers who repeatedly pirate their movies has settled.
Less than a month after suing, the production companies behind Dallas Buyers Club, I Feel Pretty and Colossal moved to dismiss their cases, according to court documents filed Friday. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Copyright law is the weapon of choice for copyright owners who are increasingly turning to court over the piracy of their movies. Serial litigant Voltage Pictures has sued pirating sites, VPN companies and even individual downloaders. In September, the company set its sights on Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Comcast, accusing them of turning a blind eye to customers who illegally distribute and download films. It sought a court order seeking to force the internet service providers to adopt policies that provide for the termination of accounts held by repeat offenders and to block certain piracy websites.
The producers claimed the internet providers knowingly contributed to copyright infringement by their customers.
“Verizon did not terminate customer accounts even if it received information about a high number of repeat infringements at those customer accounts,” states the complaint. “For example, Verizon Communications Inc. has allowed hundreds of infringements to occur at certain accounts, despite receiving at least as many notices of infringement regarding those accounts. And Verizon users have reported receiving multiple infringement notices from Verizon without having their accounts terminated.”
The lawsuits alleged a violation of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which criminalizes services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. It provides protection from liability for service providers, but it comes with conditions. Under the law, internet providers must boot repeat infringers.
Voltage argued that the defendants don’t have safe harbor since they don’t maintain policies that mandate terminating the accounts of customers who repeatedly receive notices of copyright infringement.
Under AT&T’s policy, a subscriber’s receipt of multiple copyright alerts is only one factor used by the company in determining whether to terminate services, according to the suit. Comcast says under its policy that it will boot repeat infringers but only counts the number of violations a customer receives in a single month rather than counting the total number of violations. Verizon’s policy, according to the suit, makes it overly burdensome for production companies to notify it of copyright infringement and does nothing about pirating even when it’s aware.
Judgments in similar lawsuits by copyright owners that went to trial have proved costly for internet providers. In 2019, Cox Communications was hit with a $1 billion verdict won by 53 music publishers accusing the company of profiting off of repeat offenders. The jury awarded nearly $10,000 in damages for over 10,000 works that were infringed upon in that case, which is on appeal.
Attorneys representing the production labels at Dovel & Luner and Culpepper IP, which filed the three lawsuits, declined to comment.
Verizon, AT&T and Comcast didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
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