BMG and Rightscorp sue ISP for right to decide who may use the Internet

The giant, criminal rootkit distributor and the dying, sleazy extortion racket want a judge to say that ISPs should disconnect people from the Internet on their say-so.

They're suing, saying that Cox's "we disconnect repeat infringers" policy means that they should disconnect anyone they repeatedly accuse of copyright infringement. Cox says "repeat infringer" is someone repeatedly convicted of infringement. This will be a big-ass lawsuit that will go to several appeals.

At stake is your right to connect your family to the single wire that delivers free speech, a free press, free assembly, access to health outcomes, political engagement, education, employment, social mobility, civic engagement and more — against the right of giant companies to decide alone who may — and who many not — be wired into the nervous system of the twenty-first century.

Does someone become a "repeat infringer" when a judge rules they have repeatedly violated copyrights? If so, the music publishers and Rightscorp have many more hoops to jump through before they have any hope of beating Cox in court. Conversely, if a judge believes Rightscorp's notifications are enough to find a user is a repeat infringer, then Cox could be in trouble.

It's a question most big rightsholders haven't been eager to resolve in court, because it's a huge gamble. A copyright-maximalist outcome could give them more enforcement tools, but if legal precedent gets set in a defense-friendly way, they could end up with far less leverage over ISPs than they have now. Since most major ISPs are compromising on the issue and slowly moving forward with a "six strikes" system, there've been incentives on both sides not to go to the mat on this issue.

And Cox, which declined to comment for this story, will surely fight back hard. YouTube came under legal fire from Viacom for not doing enough to boot out copyrighted material, and Google spent $100 million defending the case—even though the economic consequences of shutting down YouTube accounts is almost always inconsequential. Cable companies often bundle Internet with television and phone services, and a subscription can cost well over $100 per month. Since BMG and Round Hill have accused 200,000 Cox accounts of being "repeat infringers," the consequences of a loss on Cox's side could be massive.

Music publishers finally pull the trigger, sue an ISP over piracy [Joe Mullin/Ars Technica]

(Image: Execution of Louis XVI, public domain)