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posted by martyb on Tuesday June 08, @02:17AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

$1 billion piracy ruling could force ISPs to disconnect more Internet users:

A jury ruled in December 2019 that Cox must pay $1 billion in damages to the major record labels. Sony, Universal, and Warner had sued the cable ISP in 2018 in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. A district judge upheld the verdict in January 2021, approving the $1 billion judgment and paving the way for to Cox appeal to the 4th Circuit.

[...] "The core question in this litigation is whether an Internet service provider (ISP) was sufficiently aggressive in terminating the accounts of thousands of subscribers, and if not, the consequences of that policy decision," the advocacy groups wrote in their court brief. "The district court's answer misconstrued the law, the actual relationship between ISPs and subscribers, and the public interest. Affirming it would have dangerous consequences far beyond this case."

Terminating Internet service "means withdrawing an essential tool for participation in daily life," and cutting off an account because of the actions of one user "potentially cuts off every household member or—in the case of a school, library, or business—every student, faculty member, patron, and employee who shares the Internet connection," they wrote. "And with little or no competition among broadband ISPs in many areas of the country, those users may have no other way to connect."

[...] "Even for residential accounts, the consequences of terminating Internet access will not be confined to individual repeat infringers," the filing also said. "In other file sharing cases, rightsholders have estimated that 30 percent of the names of account holders identified as infringers were not responsible for the alleged infringement."

[...] In its complaint against Cox, the record labels claimed that Cox "knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers." The ISP "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," they claimed.

Despite receiving "hundreds of thousands of statutory infringement notices" from record labels, "Cox unilaterally 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,'" the record labels also argued.

At trial, the record labels "presented to the jury a total of 10,017 copyrights that Defendants' subscribers allegedly infringed upon during the claim period" of February 2013 to November 2014, District Judge Liam O'Grady wrote when he approved the jury verdict. "The Court found during summary judgment proceedings that Plaintiffs owned all of the copyrights in suit within the meaning of the Copyright Act, and that Cox had sufficient knowledge of the alleged infringement to satisfy the knowledge element of the contributory infringement claim." The jury ultimately "returned a verdict holding Cox liable for both vicarious and contributory infringement of all 10,017 claimed works," and it awarded the plaintiffs statutory damages of $99,830.29 per work, for a total of $1 billion.

[...] In its complaint against Cox, the record labels claimed that Cox "knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers." The ISP "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," they claimed.

Despite receiving "hundreds of thousands of statutory infringement notices" from record labels, "Cox unilaterally 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,'" the record labels also argued.

At trial, the record labels "presented to the jury a total of 10,017 copyrights that Defendants' subscribers allegedly infringed upon during the claim period" of February 2013 to November 2014, District Judge Liam O'Grady wrote when he approved the jury verdict. "The Court found during summary judgment proceedings that Plaintiffs owned all of the copyrights in suit within the meaning of the Copyright Act, and that Cox had sufficient knowledge of the alleged infringement to satisfy the knowledge element of the contributory infringement claim." The jury ultimately "returned a verdict holding Cox liable for both vicarious and contributory infringement of all 10,017 claimed works," and it awarded the plaintiffs statutory damages of $99,830.29 per work, for a total of $1 billion.


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday June 08, @02:31AM (14 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday June 08, @02:31AM (#1143002)

    It's the age-old question of wiether ISPs are considered simple carriers or providers. Or said another way, whether they provide a data transfer service or whether they're responsible for policing what goes through the wire.

    I'm on the carrier side of the argument. When someone repeatedly breaks the speed limit on the freeway, you don't sue the company or state operating the freeway. Enforcing the rules of the road is the job of the highway police. Also, you don't close off the entire an entire section of the freeway around the offender's house to prevent it from happening again.

    Putting this back in context, the record companies should go after the offenders, or the server operators if it's not P2P, not the ISP. Of course it's harder and costlier: it's so much easier to sue the ISP - and they're more likely to get damage from an ISP than from an ordinary Joe Blow downloading stuff from home.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by fustakrakich on Tuesday June 08, @02:37AM

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday June 08, @02:37AM (#1143005) Journal

      Of course ISPs have to be regulated as common carriers, it is a telephone line, but not enough people are demanding it. They're all focused on facebook/twitter, which are just content providers.

      Oh well, let's see where this bit of *cat and mouse* leads us. Ultimately we lose, unless we find a way to connect without an ISP

      --
      Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:34AM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:34AM (#1143027)

      Having lived in China with it's Great Firewall, I can assure you that it is completely ridiculous to expect that ISPs are capable of monitoring and blocking all contraband. Even with all the resources of the party in China, the internet winds up incredibly slow for anything on the other side of the wall.

      This is really just the latest case of oligarchs being allowed to abuse their power and the courts being too incompetent to understand what's going on.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:18AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:18AM (#1143070)

        Not incompetent. Corrupt. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but the judges making these garbage rulings are entirely consistent in ruling for the wealthiest and best connected party, facts, law, and precedent be damned. I've heard it suggested that electing judges is the problem, but we have the same problem here in Canada with our appointed judges. Some are honest but others aren't, and there is neither the will nor a way to get rid of the bad ones.

        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday June 09, @12:26AM (3 children)

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 09, @12:26AM (#1143338) Homepage Journal

          I dunno 'bout all that. A lot of judges, and a lot of lawyers, seem to be simply out of touch with technology. They aren't competent to make tech decisions. They've spent their entire careers with their noses deep in dusty tomes of law. Some of them are pretty smart people, sure, but how are they supposed to know how tech stuff works? They would have to exit their law libraries, and get involved in life to understand tech. Unless he/she happened to minor in some STEM field while getting their law degrees.

          What are the odds of that happening?

          Note that I'm not denying that some lawyers and judges are corrupt. I'm only saying that you can't dismiss incompetence so easily.

          --
          Let's go Brandon!
          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday June 09, @05:35AM (2 children)

            by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 09, @05:35AM (#1143443) Journal

            Judges are in a bind. Even when they get it, the problem is that the law doesn't make sense. And that is the fault of the legislators, and the special interests who control them. Most artists refuse to get it, can't believe that they can make a living without copyright. To make a fair ruling, a judge and jury would have to nullify a whole lot of law.

            The law and those who back it demand the impossible: that we all treat the immaterial as if it is material property, as if the Internet really is a series of tubes, like those vacuum tube systems at the typical bank drive thru, through which printed books and stamped CDs and DVDs can be delivered to customers. Artists are still vainly trying to turn back the clock.

            This ownership disease has spread all over the place, from museums who hysterically insist that no photography is allowed, and never mind that their entire collection is so old that everything is out of copyright, to drug companies, agricultural interests both seed companies and equipment manufacturers, to tech companies pushing consumers into walled gardens. At least museums are giving up on that restriction-- seems the cell phone generation has forced their hand on that.

            • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Wednesday June 09, @04:41PM (1 child)

              by hendrikboom (1125) on Wednesday June 09, @04:41PM (#1143575) Homepage Journal

              Last I heard in one museum of old art was that the were concerned that light from flash photography would gradually denature the pigments in paint.

              • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday June 09, @06:50PM

                by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 09, @06:50PM (#1143639) Journal

                Yes, I have heard that one, that flashes might damage paint pigments. That's the very sort of excuse that should be viewed with great suspicion as a pretext that conveniently forbids photography. And, yes, it is a bs excuse. Tellingly, they still don't like visitors taking photos even if not using a flash. Further, the notion has been tested, and the supposed damage from camera flashes have been found insignificant. Whatever miniscule damage light does, paintings already incur just by being on display. https://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/2936_Does_flash_photography_really_damage_paintings [arthistorynews.com]

                A better reason to forbid flashes is that they are distracting to others.

                Let's also remember that cops wanted videoing of them banned, for every bs excuse imaginable. Might distract the cops, might reveal their methods to criminals, or compromise other sensitive info, violate their privacy, and heck, even violate the privacy of arrestees. Of course we all now know the real reason was exactly as was long suspected, that they didn't want their abuses exposed. Now they all have to wear body cameras, LOL.

    • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday June 08, @08:57AM (1 child)

      by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday June 08, @08:57AM (#1143063)

      Fully agreeing, and furthering: ISPs would have to violate privacy and spy on subscriber's traffic. Should be an easy defense in court: "we don't spy on user traffic".

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by sjames on Tuesday June 08, @03:13PM

        by sjames (2882) on Tuesday June 08, @03:13PM (#1143154) Journal

        Here's a nice test. Someone connects 8 phone lines to an old-school BBS. People use dialup to trade copyrighted works. Is the judge OK with penalizing the phone company?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by looorg on Tuesday June 08, @09:49AM (1 child)

      by looorg (578) on Tuesday June 08, @09:49AM (#1143077)

      Isn't the issue here that in many nations Internet access have become more or less an essential service so cutting it poses a bit issue. It's not like we stop criminals from buying stamps or getting phones/phonecalls. So why would they be stopped from having access to the internet? I understand they want to sue someone to try and gain money and compensation for imaginary damages but I'm not quite sure actually which part is the right part or person. In that regard I think the operators are probably the once they should go after, they are instead just going to low hanging fruit and picking the easiest target or the one that won't be able to defend themselves. So solidifying the reputations as complete bastards and gaining no sympathy from anyone.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday June 09, @05:51AM

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 09, @05:51AM (#1143447) Journal

        I've had my Internet service disabled over accusations of piracy. They of course don't bother proving anything, seems the mere accusation is enough of a justification. One thing they do is give me a phone number to call. Except that without the Internet, my VoIP phone service does not work. That's just one example of how harsh and stupid a blanket cut is. Someday, lives may depend on Internet connectivity, if they don't already, what with this IoT stuff.

    • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Tuesday June 08, @02:00PM (2 children)

      by Gaaark (41) on Tuesday June 08, @02:00PM (#1143122) Journal

      Simplified:

      Record producers produce the record/cd/? that pirates use to pirate the music, therefore record producers are accessories to the pirating of music: they should go to jail/be fined themselves.

      Companies producing product they don't want pirated should not produce the product!

      1. Don't produce product
      2. Pirates can't pirate
      3. No profit is made
      4. PROFIT!

      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:13AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:13AM (#1143021)

    Yeah. Uh-huh.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @05:47AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @05:47AM (#1143046)

    I am so sorry for all those Jason Beibler mp3s that I shared over napster/limewire/bittorrent/spotify/sftp! I did not realize that he, and a lot of lawyers, depended on those copyright revenues to feed their kids and Rottweillers! Please, sue me again, so I can make this right!

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Magic Oddball on Tuesday June 08, @06:00AM (1 child)

    by Magic Oddball (3847) on Tuesday June 08, @06:00AM (#1143049) Journal

    ISPs also have the option of doing what Comcast/Xfinity began doing to its subsidized $9.99 "Internet Essentials" customers last year: setting up the network to require the use of the assigned company-owned modem that's altered to screw with outbound file-sharing ports & protocols and periodically updates its own firmware.

    I had a couple of long chats with Xfinity Support about wanting to use my own modem, and both people were clearly baffled to find that all potential options are missing from the account; one said to contact the Essentials Team as they should be able to do it, but the Essentials staff are only set up to handle sign-up & billing issues. One other "Essentials" customer contacted me several months after I'd asked about it online, and informed me that when they talked with both the regular & Essentials support staff, they were told that the option to use one's own modem simply isn't available for Essentials customers.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:30AM (#1143073)

      That flat out should not be allowed. I don't mean requiring the company modem, but screwing with traffic. They should be required to egress filter bad/spoofed return addresses since that is the only possible protection against DRDOS attacks, and rate limiting to the paid-for service level is fair. A case can even be made about filtering known virus traffic as long as the customer is notified promptly, but nothing else should be allowed. Net neutrality is only half of the solution. Internet service needs to be common carrier for the same reasons telephone is.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @02:10PM (4 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @02:10PM (#1143124) Journal

    This could be a fantastical ground breaking precedent.

    If the RIAA / MPAA can get court ordered punishments inflicted upon mere accusations of copyright infringement, consider the wonderful precedent this could set! Think of the wonderful places it could lead us in a glorious brave new world.

    People could be jailed or executed upon the mere accusations of crimes.

    The court system would no longer be so overloaded.

    Lawyers could focus their efforts on writing more justifications to support this new system of punishments for mere allegations of wrongdoing.

    If you can be cut off of something so essential as the internet, why not also cut off people's electricity. Plumbing. Cut off their employment. Forbid them from renting property. Take away their driving privileges.

    Bad people who get accused of doing bad things should be punished!

    --
    Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Freeman on Tuesday June 08, @02:37PM (1 child)

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday June 08, @02:37PM (#1143140) Journal

      The pedophile is still crucified in the court of public opinion. Well before he/she ever sees his/her day in court.

      --
      Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @07:16PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @07:16PM (#1143247)

        The pedophile is still crucified in the court of public opinion.

        You meant alleged pedophile.

        But even that is representative of the entire problem here. The automatic assumption of guilt and a possible punishments that screws one over regardless of guilt.

    • (Score: 2) by choose another one on Tuesday June 08, @03:22PM (1 child)

      by choose another one (515) on Tuesday June 08, @03:22PM (#1143159)

      More than that, consider if lots of regular people start making accusations of producing criminally crap music and movies against... RIAA / MPAA.

      Should be more than enough accusations to take them down, and plenty of evidence in plain sight.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @04:47PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @04:47PM (#1143195) Journal

        Now if we could only get a law, or a defacto system where accusing one of creating bad music could lead to some kind of punishment.

        --
        Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @06:57PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @06:57PM (#1143241)

    I think governments should stop enforcing these unnecessary monopolies before they go cutting off people from essential services for "violating the monopolists rights"

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