A jury in Virginia federal court slapped Cox Communications hard Thursday, issuing a $1 billion verdict in a copyright infringement case that said the cable operator willfully allowed its customers to illegally download music.
The suit was filed July 31, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by 53 music publishers, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music and others. They claimed that Cox, even after it had been notified by the publishers that its customers were illegally downloading their copyrighted songs, the cable operator ignored them.
All in all the music publishers counted 10,017 instances of infringement by Cox customers, and the jury found all of them had merit, assigning a value of $99,830.29 to each work, for a total of $1 billion.
“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,” Record Industry Association of America chief legal officer Kenneth Doroshow said in a statement. “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.”
According to the suit, Cox “deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others’ copyrights—even once Cox became aware of particular customers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement.”
The suit continued that the music publishers sent “thousands” of infringement notices to Cox about the abuse, claiming that instead of working with the publishers to stop the infringement, the “imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of infringement notices it would accept from copyright holders, thereby willfully blinding itself to any of its subscribers’ infringements that exceeded its “cap.” Cox, the plaintiff said, also refused to cancel service of customers that were illegally downloading copyrighted material, instead implementing “‘soft terminations’ with virtually automatic reinstatement, or it simply did nothing at all.”
Cox said it was disappointed in the verdict and that it plans to appeal.
“The judgement is unwarranted, unjust and an egregious amount,” Cox said in a statement. “Today, you can download a song for a dollar. This judgement is for nearly $100,000 per song. 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.”