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A U.S. District Court judge has upheld the $1 billion verdict against Cox Communications that found the cable and internet service provider liable for piracy infringement of over 10,000 musical works on its network, court documents filed Tuesday reveal.
In December 2019, a jury agreed with plaintiffs Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI that Cox had “deliberately refused to take reasonable measures” to combat copyright infringers, even after the company became aware of specific acts of infringement by its customers. Cox was held liable for infringement on 10,017 pieces of work and fined $99,830.29 per work, an amount totaling $1 billion in statutory damages.
Following the verdict, Cox’s motion for a new trial was denied, though the court granted the company’s motion to challenge the amount of damages after it argued that some of the 10,017 works were derivative of others — claiming overlap between sound recordings and musical compositions — and thereby ineligible for a separate statutory damage award. In a post-trial brief, Cox offered evidence that it infringed on only 7,579 works, and O’Grady subsequently granted both Cox and the plaintiffs 60 days to provide evidence supporting their assertions.
But in today’s ruling, Judge Liam O’Grady said the court was “wrong” in rendering that decision, instead arguing that Cox was responsible for providing sufficient evidence of the duplicative works during the jury trial, not in a post-trial brief, and that its failure to do so renders the original verdict ironclad. “Clearly, the number of derivative works in play in this case was a question for the jury,” O’Grady wrote. “The jury answered that question with the information available, and Cox did not provide the information to the jury that it has provided to the Court in its post-trial brief.”
The $1 billion verdict against Cox came four years after it was ordered to pay $25 million in damages to BMG in a separate copyright suit decided in December 2015. That decision was reversed on appeal in early 2018 and ordered for a retrial, though Cox settled with BMG for a “substantial” amount before a new trial could begin.
Record labels and publishers have grown increasingly diligent about targeting cable and internet service providers in an attempt to tamp down on copyright infringement. In March 2019, more than 50 music companies filed suit against Charter Communications — which does its cable business as Spectrum — alleging the company refused to combat its customers’ infringement activity even after becoming aware of “specific, repeated” acts of infringement and ignoring statutory infringement notices from copyright holders. In August 2019, a similar lawsuit was filed against internet service provider RCN Corporation for taking no “meaningful action to curb … ongoing theft.” Both cases are still pending.
Texas-based ISP Grande Communications has also been engaged in an extended legal battle with the RIAA, which accused the company of failing to crack down on copyright pirates in an April 2017 lawsuit.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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