Cox Communications Appeals $1B Music Copyright Infringement Suit

On Tuesday, Cox Communications appealed an Eastern District of Virginia music copyright infringement suit brought against it by Sony Music Entertainment as well as other record labels and music publishers to the Fourth Circuit.

Originally, Sony Music Entertainment et al. filed a lawsuit against Cox Communications in July 2018 for its purported copyright infringement of the plaintiffs’ musical works. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs “own or control exclusive rights to the copyrights to some of the most famous sound recordings.” Cox Communications is “one of the largest Internet service providers (‘ISPs’) in the country. It markets and sells high-speed Internet services to consumers nationwide. Through the provision of those services, however, Cox also knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers, causing great harm to Plaintiffs.” Reportedly, Cox Communications has “deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others’ copyrights,” even when Cox Communications became aware of said infringement, such as through the multitude of notices that the plaintiffs sent to Cox Communications regarding its “subscribers’ blatant and systematic use of Cox’s Internet service to illegally download, copy, and distribute Plaintiffs’ copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services.”

However, the plaintiffs averred that instead of working with them, Cox Communications “unilaterally imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of infringement notices it would accept from copyright holders” and imposed “a ‘thirteen-strike policy’ before terminating service of repeat infringers,” but, according to the plaintiffs, “Cox never permanently terminated any subscribers.” Consequently, the plaintiffs proffered that Cox Communications’ thirteen-strike policy is ineligible for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor, which was purportedly upheld in the Eastern District of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit in another suit. The plaintiffs accused Cox Communications of contributory copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement and sought relief for this purported infringement.

In the notice of appeal, Cox Communications stated that it was appealing the Eastern District of Virginia’s final judgment that Cox Communications must pay the plaintiffs $1 billion, the order re-affirming that Cox Communications infringed all 10,017 copyrighted works, the lower court’s memorandum opinion denying in part its motion for judgment as a matter of law and denying Cox Communications’ motion for new trial, as well as the court’s amended memorandum opinion granting in part the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and denying Cox’s motion for summary judgment.

The plaintiffs are represented by Oppenheim & Zebrak. Cox Communications is represented by Winston & Strawn as well as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.