Major record labels reach last-minute settlement with US ISP Bright House in copyright lawsuit

Credit: Sasun Bughdaryan

A number of record labels, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have settled a copyright infringement lawsuit against US internet service provider Bright House Networks on the eve of a scheduled hearing in a Florida court.

In a brief court filing on Tuesday (August 2), Universal Music, on behalf of other Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) members, said, “they have resolved” the case against Bright House, without disclosing the specifics of the settlement.

The filing came a day before the two parties were set to go to trial in the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa division, following virtual hearings held on July 28 and July 29 via Zoom.

The settlement marks the end of a three-year litigation between Bright House and the record companies.

In 2019, the labels accused Bright House of allowing thousands of its subscribers to illegally download, copy, and distribute copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services.

“Bright House has knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers, causing great harm to plaintiffs, their recording artists and songwriters, and others whose livelihoods depend upon the lawful acquisition of music,” the recording companies said in their complaint dated March 22, 2019.

The plaintiffs included Universal Music, Capitol Records, Warner Music, Atlantic Records, P. Diddy-founded Bad Boy Records, Sony Music, EMI and several of their subsidiaries and affiliates.

“Bright House has knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers, causing great harm to plaintiffs.”

RIAA MEMBERS (in a lawsuit from March 2019)

The lawsuit came about four years after Bright House was acquired by Charter Communications for $10.4 billion.

Bright House, which provides Internet and other digital media services, allegedly refused to take reasonable measures to stop customers from using its Internet to infringe on others’ copyrights including those owned by the plaintiffs.

“Rather than working with plaintiffs to curb this massive infringement, Bright House did nothing, choosing to prioritize its own profits over its legal obligations,” the complaint read. The record labels further stressed that the internet service provider failed to take actions against repeat infringers.

Over a year after the lawsuit was filed, Bright House filed a countersuit, accusing the plaintiffs of “false, deceptive, and misleading” claims and of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by “knowingly sending materially inaccurate notices of alleged infringement.”

Three years after going back and forth with more arguments, the court dismissed the case on Tuesday following the settlement agreement, according to an order issued by US District Judge Mary Scriven.

Details of the settlement agreement, including financial terms, were not disclosed in any of the filings and neither of the two sides have issued official statements.

The lawsuit is just among the many copyright litigations filed by record companies in their attempt to crack down on piracy in the music industry.

Back in February, the RIAA was awarded $83 million in piracy damages from YouTube-rippers and after a federal court in Virginia ruled that the sites have indeed violated copyright laws by allowing users to rip music from YouTube, TorrentFreak reported.

It follows the RIAA’s successful bid to shut down (‘YouTube to MP3), another stream ripping site, in 2017.

Overseas, a court in Milan ordered CloudFlare, a US-based content delivery network firm, to block users’ access to three copyright-infringing BitTorrent sites.

The decision, handed down less than a month ago, was the result of a litigation taken by global recording industry body IFPI, which counts more than 8,000 members globally including Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music.

 Music Business Worldwide