It has finally happened, the music industry moved to the next level last week when BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music sued US ISP, Cox Communications. The case centres around the issue of piracy and the fact the ISP is being accused of being lax on punishment of those who download illegal music.
In the US and other media hotbed locations such as the UK and Europe, companies have been employed to use bullyboy tactics against not only ISPs but their users to encourage them to pay up before court cases are brought against them, in many instances, cases are never brought, even if users refuse to pay. This tactic has been criticised both in the US and abroad with many such copyright enforcement agencies crumbling under the pressure of the task at hand.
Law firms who chase such issues are never well liked, a similar situation was seen in the UK in 2009/10 in which a firm of solicitors, ACS:Law were consistently berated by internet activists and with one issue or another lead to their eventual demise.
The reason the case is making waves is because there is currently no such similar case resolved to base the outcome on. ISPs are providers of a service and their stance is they cannot be held responsible for what their users get up to across the service. However if the case is ruled in favour of the music industry it could have implications not only for Cox but also for ISPs across the United States.
While the issue may cause concern for users of ISPs in the US, it should also be a consideration that if the lawsuit passes in favour of the music industry, users of VPN servers in US data centres could also find their usage either restricted or legally logged, interesting times for consumers of both ISP and VPN services.
Should such an outcome be realised, it will open the floodgates for further action against other providers and the ramifications on user subscriptions could be detrimental to the ISP industries revenue stream.
As part of the complaint against Cox, the companies involved claim that despite numerous reports sent to Cox, they have actively been ignored. Claims go as far to as say that copyright infringement notices were treated as spam by Cox and measures had been taken to both avoid and stop receiving them.
For companies that deal with DMCA requests, the headache surrounding these can sometimes be all consuming. In a recent event seen at LiquidVPN themselves, a mass of duplicate DMCA requests were sent which one can only surmise, was the intention to have the server killed by the data centre? Erroneous request such as these appear to be all too common and obvious abuse of DMCA is widespread.
The complaint states that there are over 200,000 copyright infringers on the Cox network and not only do such a high number partake in infringement but the complaint further reveals that these are “repeat copyright infringers”. Various sample data is given stating that on occasions, a user with a particular IP address raised 54,489 individual notifications of which Cox was notified of each of these acts of infringement. The report suggests that although such a high number was received for that particular subscriber there is no suggestion that any action was taken against the user or group of users who shared that IP address.
The US operates a six-strike system with which users can be disconnected if they fall fowl of copyright infringement 6 times. This has happened with other operators and is one of the biggest reasons users of torrent systems in the US tend to disguise their downloading habits by making use of a Virtual Private Network. The trial will become an ultimate test case and set a precedent that may have far and reaching consequences, especially if the so called 200,000 repeat copyright infringers are required to be booted from the service.
The tale takes an even more intriguing twist with the fact that Rightscorp, the company employed to represent the music companies taking part in the case, is skating on thin ice with a reported limited cash flow situation, possibly forcing them to bankruptcy. If reports are true, it may be a case that the company will fold before the matter is even resolved.