Comcast outlines ‘repeat infringer’ policy for piracy: Keep it up, and you’re banned

Just like 'Seinfeld's' infamous Soup Nazi, Comcast has expressed the right to ban ISP customers who don't toe the line on digital piracy. (Image: Sony Pictures Television)

With an appellate court ruling earlier this month that Cox Communications doesn’t have “safe harbor” immunity from the copyright-infringing behavior of its broadband customers, Comcast has apparently responded with a notice to subscribers outlining its policy for so-called repeat infringers.

So what is a repeat infringer? “Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer,” Comcast said.

The cable company said it has the right to escalate piracy complaint issues for customers based on “any number of [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] notifications from content owners in a given month.”

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So what would that escalation look like? "You may receive an email alert to the preferred email address on your account or a letter to your home address. You may also receive an in-browser notification, a recorded message to your telephone number on file, a text message to your mobile telephone number on file, or another form of communication,” Comcast noted in its policy post.

As for penalties, Comcast listed the following: “a persistent in-browser notification or other form of communication that requires you to log in to your account or call us; a temporary suspension of, or other interim measures applied to, your service; or the termination of your XFinity internet service as well as your other XFinity services.”

RELATED: Cox gets $25M BMG verdict tossed on appeal but won’t have safe harbor protection at retrial

Torrent Freak was the first to report on the Comcast post, which it calls “recent.” 

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit Court reversed a 2015 Virginia federal court decision on a 2014 lawsuit filed against the privately held MSO by music label BMG, which argued that Cox was negligent in stopping its subscribers from illegally sharing copyrighted music over the internet. 

The appeals court panel ruled that the Virginia court jury received improper instructions. The ruling is mixed for Cox, however, with the panel throwing out the operator’s core defense. Cox defended itself by arguing that it has protection under federal copyright safe harbor provisions, which immunize ISPs from liability related to user activities. But the provisions only apply if the ISP has and enforces policies related to repeat offenders. 

As Torrent Freak noted, the DMCA isn’t clear just what a repeat offender is.