Majors’ $1bn lawsuit against Cox Communications upheld by judge

A $1 billion copyright infringement case won by Sony, Universal and Warner in December 2019 against US-based internet service provider Cox Communications was upheld in federal court yesterday (June 2).

The case was launched in 2018, with the ISP accused by the majors at the time of having “knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers”.

In December, a jury ruled that Cox was liable for the infringement of over 10,000 music copyrights by its users. The firm was ordered to pay Sony, Universal and Warner over $99,000 for each of the 10,017 alleged works that were infringed – the equivalent of $1 billion in collective damages.

Cox then challenged the ruling by lodging a legal motion in January calling the verdict “unprecedented”, and branding the $1bn it was ordered to pay as “grossly excessive”.

The motion, filed with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, also called the $1 billion damages “a miscarriage of justice” – arguing that it was “shockingly excessive and unlawfully punitive”.

Cox added: “The award of $1 billion appears to be the largest award of statutory copyright damages in history. This is not by a matter of degree. It is the largest such award by a factor of eight.”

According to the motion filed by Cox in January, the company demanded either a remittitur (i.e. a reduction in the amount of damages awarded) or an entirely new trial.

Yesterday (June 2), U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady denied that motion and rebuffed the US ISP’s claim that the damages awarded for each infringed copyright were “excessive”.

He did concede, however, that the number of works used to calculate the total award (10,017) was “premature”, and that this figure would be reviewed. Cox has been granted 60 days to submit an updated list of works.

According to Judge O’Grady’s order, which you can read in full here, “Plaintiffs [Sony, Universal and Warner] were well within their rights to elect both a jury and statutory damages.

He added that only “after significant deliberation”, did the jury award the majors $99,830.29 per work, which he says was “well within the Act’s statutory range of $750-$150,000.”

Added Judge O’Grady: “Plaintiffs shall have sixty days to produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate which, if any, pairings or groupings should remain separate works.”

“The court will determine the final number of works in suit as it deems appropriate based on both parties’ submissions.”Music Business Worldwide