A win for copyright trolls: Cox must pay $25M for not disconnecting users

BMG hired Rightscorp, a publicly traded blackmail company, to send threatening letters to Cox Cable subscribers it accused of infringing its copyrights, demanding cash payments to stay out of court.

Cox refused to pass the notices on, and BMG brought a case against the company, arguing that it was required to have an effective means of terminating "repeat offenders." The jury agreed, and fined Cox $25,000,000.

It's hard to say what the effect of this will be. The case does not mean that Rightscorp's demand letters (or letters from others) have to be passed on to ISPs' customers, and that's important because Rightscorp has admitted that unless the big ISPs agree to do this, it will go bankrupt.

The verdict means that Cox -- and other ISPs -- have to have some means of terminating "repeat infringers" and that "infringers" doesn't mean, "someone convicted of infringement." It may mean as little as "someone accused of infringement," but if the ruling stands, it'll probably land somewhere between those two poles. "Repeat accusations" would be very bad news, because as we've seen, rightsholders are happy to commit knowing copyfraud and sloppy, inadvertent copyfraud, so giving them the ability to sever people from the 21st century's nervous system on their mere say-so is a stupid, terrible idea.

The verdict will almost certainly be appealed. There was an early, unprecedented summary judgment holding that Cox couldn't use the DMCA's safe harbor provisions that is a likely source of appeal. There's also the possibility of an appeal based on the judge's instructions to the jury -- the judge having established himself as extremely hostile to the idea of safe harbor early in the case.

According to the verdict form (read here), the jury found Cox liable for contributory copyright infringement after also finding the plaintiff proved that Cox's users used the service to directly infringe the copyrights. Notably, the jury also ruled that Cox's infringements were willful. The ISP was able to beat back a separate claim for vicarious infringement. The judge allowed the case to be determined by the jury after denying the parties' motions for judgments as a matter of law.

Music Publisher Gets $25 Million Jury Verdict Against Cox in Trailblazing Piracy Case
[Eriq Gardner/Hollywood Reporter]