Cox Communications Hit With $1B Jury Verdict in Music Piracy Suit

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Cox Communications is liable for the infringement of more than 10,000 pirated songs, a Virginia jury held, and it's going to cost the company $1 billion in damages.

Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, EMI and their music publishing subsidiaries in June 2018 sued Cox, claiming the internet giant "knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers." 

The labels say they sent "hundreds of thousands" of infringement notices to Cox before suing, according to the complaint. They also say the company implemented a "thirteen-strike-policy" before terminating service of repeat infringers and that, even then, the termination wasn't permanent. Therefore, they argue, Cox isn't protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which provides protection to service providers for infringement by its users.

On Thursday, the jury unanimously sided with the labels and publishers and handed down a 10-figure damages award. It found Cox liable for both contributory and vicarious infringement, and that the infringement was willful, awarding just under $100,000 per work. The 13-day trial began on Dec. 2.

BMG sued Cox separately in 2015. Cox appealed a $25 million jury award in that case, and the 4th Circuit remanded the matter for a new trial and it ultimately settled.

Cox on Thursday issued a statement saying it is disappointed in the decision: "The amount is unjust and excessive. We plan to appeal the case and vigorously defend ourselves. 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."

Recording Industry Association of America chief legal officer Kenneth Doroshow on Thursday also released a statement in response to the verdict: "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. 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."