Music Labels Win Piracy Verdict of $1 Billion

On December 19, Sony Music Entertainment and its numerous music industry co-plaintiffs were awarded $1 billion in damages to be paid by Cox Communications, who was found guilty of copyright infringement. The suit (Sony Music Entertainment et al v. Cox Communications, Inc. Et al 1:18-cv-00950) decided by the Virginia Eastern District Court. Plaintiffs were represented by Oppenheim + Zebrak. Defendants were represented by Winston & Strawn.

Plaintiffs were major record companies, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and EMI Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell Music.

The case stemmed from Cox’s failure to prevent users of its Internet service from illegally downloading music.  Oppenheim & Zebrak stated that the “case is a major victory for the music industry in its effort to have Internet Service Providers take infringement on their networks seriously. Cox received hundreds of thousands of infringement notices identifying subscribers who were using its Internet service to illegally download, copy, and distribute copyrighted music. But instead of addressing that infringement responsibly, Cox allowed those known infringing subscribers to continue to use its network to infringe while collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from them in the process.”

The jury found Cox contributorily and vicariously liable for infringement. Cox infringed upon 10,017 works. An amount of $99,830.29 per work was awarded, totaling $1 billion awarded for damages.

“It was a privilege to represent our clients in this important matter, and we are pleased that the jury recognized the merits of our clients’ claims,” said Matthew Oppenheim of Oppenheim + Zebrak in a statement.

The music labels and their publishing entities accused Cox of not implementing measures to fight against infringement. Cox would only allow a certain number of infringement notices to get through, thus effectively allowing infringement to continue and not discontinuing service for its customers who pirated content. The complaint stated at least 20,000 Cox subscribers are repeat offenders. 

 “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,” said David Israelite, president and CEO of National Music Publishers Association said. 

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision,” Cox wrote in a statement. “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.”