A Virginia jury ruled on Thursday that Cox Communications must pay a whopping $1 billion to several music publishers because the telecom company didn’t take enough action to stop its customers from pirating music.
As Billboard and Variety report, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and fifty other music publishers filed a lawsuit against Cox in July of 2018 alleging that the provider “deliberately refused to take reasonable measures” to stop at least 20,000 customers from committing repeated acts of copyright infringement. The complaint cited 10,017 songs that were allegedly pirated through Cox’s service.
A jury for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decided that Cox was liable for the piracy and that each infringement should cost the company $99,830.29.
National Music Publishers Association CEO and president David Israelite told Variety in a statement that “Cox had the right and ability to prevent the continued harm to music creators and it chose its own profits over complying with the law,” adding that the billion-dollar punishment “serves as a warning to those who willingly turn a blind eye and enable their users to share music illegally.”
In a public statement, Cox called the decision “unwarranted, unjust and an egregious amount,” and said it will appeal.
“Today, you can download a song for a dollar. This verdict is for nearly $100,000 per song,” Cox’s statement reads. “Unfortunately, some customers have chosen to use that connection for wrongful activity. We don’t condone it, we educate on it and we do our best to help curb it, but we shouldn’t be held responsible for the bad actions of others.”
TechDirt echoed Cox’s bafflement at the decision, calling it “insane,” “preposterous,” and “out of touch with reality.”
But we may see more rulings in cases like this. In March the same cluster of music companies sued Charter Communications for virtually the exact same thing.
While the ruling seems outlandish enough to be overturned on appeal, it could still prompt nervous telecom lawyers to insist on increased levels of copyright enforcement for customers. Pirates watch your backs out there.