Cox failed to stop music copyright infringement, judge rules

In a ruling that could open the door to other copyright infringement suits against cable operators and other ISPs, a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., has sided with music companies in a suit against Cox Communications.

U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady ruled earlier this month that Cox failed to enforce a federally required "repeat offender" policy on music copyright infringement by its customers. Judge O'Grady said he would further expound on his ruling in a forthcoming opinion.

Cox has been sued by two music companies, BMC Rights Management LLC and Round Hill Music LP, for turning a blind eye to illegal downloading of copyrighted music by its high-speed Internet customers. 

The music companies claim that through an agent called Rightscorp Inc., they have uncovered "hundreds" of Cox customers who are repeat copyright infringers. They said they have informed the MSO about this and that Cox's failure to act has resulted in the company sacrificing its protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

"Cox has repeatedly refused to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers," argued lawyers for the plaintiffs, in court papers obtained by The Wall Street Journal. "The reason that Cox does not terminate these subscribers and account holders is obvious — it would cause Cox to lose revenue."

Cox representatives have yet to respond to FierceCable's inquires for comment. 

Marquette University law professor and copyright expert Bruce Boyden told WSJ the ruling is "quite significant" and could force ISPs to "up the stakes" for their broadband customers. 

That could put operators like Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) in a no-win situation. The No. 1 MSO caught flack earlier in the week from technology pundits for its policy of injecting copyright warnings into select video streaming being viewed by its customers. 

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.)

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