Cox Moves for New Trial After Massive Piracy Verdict

Cox Communications filed a motion for remittitur or, in the alternative, a new trial, six weeks after a jury reached a $1 billion verdict as a result of digital music piracy that occurred on Cox’s broadband network. The plaintiff music labels and entertainment companies won the verdict after alleging infringement upon 10,017 works. The jury specifically awarded $99, 830.29 per work to reach the $1 billion milestone.

The motion alleged that the jury’s verdict was excessive and punitive and should thus be reduced. “The award of $1 billion appears to be the largest award of statutory copyright damages in history…by a factor of eight,” Cox noted. The awarded damages were “wholly disproportionate to the evidence of harm to Plaintiffs, benefit to Cox, or any demonstrated need for deterrence, and is unsupportable under the Court’s jury instruction on damages.”

In addition to objecting to the proportionality of the award itself, the defendants argued that the award was so disproportionate that it infringes upon their right to due process of law. Finally, they add that the award “was the product of a calculated effort by Plaintiffs to skew the damages upward by encouraging the jury to punish a deep-pocketed defendant for supposed transgressions far beyond the limited acts of infringement actually alleged in the case.” The defendants drew a distinction between instances where juries were instructed to deter further copyright infringement, and the punishment Cox alleged they have been subjected to. Evidence of Cox’s total profits and size as a company was prejudicial to the jury, the defendants argued, and “in closing argument, their counsel used the word “billion” at every opportunity.”

The defense counsel has requested remittitur to “an amount supported by the trial evidence and the requirements of due process,” or a new trial. The motion was filed by Winston & Strawn. The plaintiffs’ opposition to Cox’s motion is due at the end of February.