The music industry is suing Charter Communications, claiming that the cable Internet provider is profiting from music piracy by not closing the accounts of subscribers illegally downloading copyrighted music. The lawsuit also claims that Charter helps its subscribers to pirate music by selling packages with greater Internet speed.
While providing higher Internet speeds is clearly not a violation of any law, ISPs may be held liable for the copyright infringement of their users if ISPs repeatedly fail to disconnect repeat offenders.
The major record companies – Sony, Universal, Warner and its various subsidiaries – have sued Charter Friday in a complaint filed in US District Court in Colorado. While Charter has a copyright policy that says repeat infringers of copyright may be disconnected, Charter was unable to disconnect repeat offenders in practice, the complaint said:
Despite these alleged policies, and despite receiving hundreds of thousands of copyright notices as well as thousands of similar notices from other copyright owners, the Portfolio has deliberately allowed identified repeat offenders to continue to use their network to violate. Instead of disconnecting Internet access from repeat and flagrant offenders to restrict its infringement, Charter has consciously continued to provide those subscribers with access to the Internet that allowed them to continue to illegally download or distribute the authors' copyrighted works. The provision of high-speed Internet services by Charter to known offenders contributed significantly to these direct infringements.
The complaint accuses the Charter of Contributory Copyright Infringement and Indirect Copyright Infringement. The music stamps claimed statutory damages of up to $ 150,000 for each work or actual damage, including any profit letter allegedly made for allowing piracy. The complaint focuses on alleged violations between March 24, 2013 and May 17, 2016.
During this period, the complainants claim to have sent notices of infringement to Charter that "advised the flagrant and systematic use of the Charter Internet Service to illegally download, copy and distribute Author's copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file sharing ". "The music industry's complaint has repeatedly focused on BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks, saying that" online piracy committed via BitTorrent is impressive in nature, speed and scope. "
Legal process: high speeds allowed piracy
The label's complaint also seems to describe the basic acts of providing Internet services and announcing high speeds as nefarious:
Many of Charter's customers are motivated to sign the Charter service because it allows them to download songs and other copyrighted content – including unauthorized content – as efficiently as possible. In that regard, in its consumer marketing material, including material aimed at Colorado customers, Charter has announced how its service allows subscribers to download and upload large amounts of content at "extremely fast Internet speeds." Charter has informed current and potential customers that its high-speed service allows subscribers to "download almost anything instantly," and subscribers have the ability to "download 8 songs in 3 seconds." Charter also told subscribers that its Internet service "has the speed you need for everything you do online." In return for this service, Charter charges its customers monthly rates that vary in price based on the speed of service.
This paragraph of the label's complaint merely describes the standard business model of Internet service providers. There is nothing illegal about offering higher Internet speeds in exchange for higher prices.
But the labels also claim that the Loose's approach to copyright enforcement helped drive more revenue, in part because piracy allegedly inspired consumers to enroll at faster Internet levels.
"For account holders and subscribers who wanted to illegally download files at faster speeds, the Charter obliged them in exchange for higher fees.In other words, the more bandwidth required by subscribers to hack content, the more money they received" . said.
The complaint argues that while Charter performs network management to block "spam and other unwanted activities," the ISP "went out of its way not take action against subscribers involved in repeated copyright infringement. "
"Charter has approved the illegal activity because it was popular with subscribers and acted as an attraction to attract and retain new and existing subscribers. Charter customers, in turn, purchased more bandwidth and continued to use Charter services to violate copyright of the Authors, "he said. "Charter no doubt recognized that if it terminated or prevented repeat infringement from using its service to infringe or make it less attractive to such use, Charter would enter fewer new subscribers, lose existing subscribers and eventually lose revenue. "
The notices of infringement that the record companies send to Charter and other ISPs identify violators by their IP addresses.
"Because copyright holders could only determine the unique IP addresses of infringing ISP subscribers, but not their real identities, they sent subpoenas to Charter and other ISPs to obtain the names and contact information of infringing subscribers," said complaint. "While Charter's customer contracts allowed this information to be produced and there was no real doubt as to the underlying infringement of its customers, Charter strongly opposed the subpoenas, undermining the record companies' efforts to curb direct infringement."
When contacted by Ars, a letter spokesman said only that "we will defend ourselves against these unfounded allegations." We asked Charter if it would close the accounts of alleged copyright violators, but the company did not respond.
Industry sued multiple ISPs
Last week record companies also sued Bright House Networks, a charter subsidiary of the US District Court, in the Middle District, Florida, according to a TorrentFreak article. Music labels had already processed access providers such as Cox and Grande Communications.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ISPs can not be held responsible for Internet users' copyright infringement if ISPs "adopt and reasonably implement a repeat infringement policy that provides for the termination of user accounts under appropriate circumstances." grades. But the law is vague enough so that the courts have interpreted its meaning in several cases over the years.
In 2013, AT & T and other ISPs began using the "six strikes" copyright alert system, working in conjunction with the American Film Association (MPAA) and the Latin American Phonographic Industry Association (RIAA). The system did little to prevent copyright infringement and was closed early last year.
Music editors asked ISPs to filter pirated content, and they filed several lawsuits against ISPs. Cox lost a jury verdict in a music piracy case in 2015. Another lawsuit involving Cox was settled last year but Cox faces another process opened in August 2018.
In the case of Grande, a federal judge ruled this month that Grande does not qualify for a legal safe haven because of the "complete abdication of the ISP." [its] responsibilities to implement and enforce a policy that does away with repeat copyright infringers. "
Although ISPs have often resisted unplugging alleged pirates, AT & T has recently terminated the broadband service of more than a dozen customers who have been charged several times of copyright infringement.
Disclosure: The Advance / Newhouse Partnership, which holds 13% of the Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, owner of Ars Technica.