Cox Communications was hit with a $1 billion verdict on Thursday in a lawsuit alleging that it allowed its internet subscribers to illegally download music.
The jury delivered the verdict after a three-week trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., finding that Cox was liable for infringement of 10,017 recordings and compositions, each infringement costing over $99,000.
Fifty-three music companies — including recording giants Sony Music, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and top publishers Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Warner Chappell and Universal Music Publishing Group — filed suit in July 2018, alleging that Cox had ignored infringement notices and allowed repeat offenders to continue to use its service, essentially turning a blind eye to the practice.
“Rather than stop its subscribers’ unlawful activity, Cox prioritized its own profits over its legal obligations,” the suit alleged. “Cox’s profits increased dramatically as a result of the massive infringement that it facilitated, yet Cox publicly told copyright holders that it needed to reduce the number of staff it had dedicated to anti-piracy for budget reasons.”
The suit states that the music companies suing Cox sent “hundreds of thousands” of statutory infringement notices to notify of the internet service giant of “blatant and systematic use of Cox’s service to illegally download, copy, and distribute copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services.”
The jury’s verdict will not become final until after the court resolves post-trial motions.
In a statement, Cox said it was “disappointed” in the decision.
“The amount is unjust and excessive,” the company said. “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.”
Hailing the verdict was the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), whose chief legal officer Kenneth L. Doroshow commented: “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.”
Added NMPA president and CEO David Israelite: “Today’s victory on behalf of music publishers and record labels who own over 10,000 copyrights is a clear message to ISPs like Cox who refuse to take responsibility for infringers on their networks. The jury found that Cox was liable for its subscribers’ infringement to the tune of $1 billion dollars which serves as a warning to those who willingly turn a blind eye and enable their users to share music illegally. Cox received hundreds of thousands of notices of infringement and did not adequately respond or comply with its obligations to stop its subscribers from infringing on peer to peer networks. Cox had the right and ability to prevent the continued harm to music creators and it chose its own profits over complying with the law.”