Business News Legal
By Chris Cooke | Posted on Friday, September 9, 2022
The consortium of American movie producers who have been busy suing a plethora of internet companies lately have now filed lawsuits against AT&T and Verizon, claiming the two US internet service providers are not doing enough to stop the violation authors on their networks.
Although it was the music companies that really got the ball rolling by targeting ISPs rather than their copyright infringing customers, with BMG and then the majors successfully suing Cox Communications, this consortium of independent filmmakers has been particularly prolific. when it comes to filing lawsuits. of this type, against various ISPs and other Internet companies.
Of course, technically, US copyright law provides a safe harbor for internet companies, preventing them from being liable for their customers’ infringement. However, to benefit from this safe harbor, an Internet company must have systems in place to deal with infringing content on its networks and repeat infringers among its customer base.
In the Cox case, BMG and the majors demonstrated that the ISP paid lip service to its policies regarding infringing content and customers, and therefore lost safe harbor protection and been held accountable for all violations on its networks. Up to a billion dollars in the case of the majors.
Subsequent lawsuits against other ISPs and Internet companies, brought by both the majors and these movie producers, have all argued that the targeted companies, much like Cox, are not doing enough to fight counterfeits and offenders and therefore are not eligible for safe harbor protection.
Since most targeted companies have some sort of anti-counterfeiting system, complainants should explain why these systems are inadequate.
The targeting of AT&T and Verizon in the latest lawsuits is interesting because, unlike previously sued internet companies, they participated in the Copyright Alert System, a program run in the 2010s by the music and film industries and five American ISPs which aimed to combat online piracy.
Although this program was ultimately only active for about four years and arguably failed to end online counterfeiting, AT&T and Verizon will likely argue that their involvement in the program proves that they are taking responsibility. with regard to the fight against counterfeiting and offenders. on their networks seriously. And certainly more seriously than Cox and some of the other net companies that have been sued in recent years.
With AT&T, the movie producers claim that – although in theory the ISP operates a system to deal with repeat infringers – when their anti-piracy officer sent copyright notices about certain customers who apparently regularly infringed the copyright, no action has been taken.
Their lawsuit states, “For example, AT&T failed to terminate its subscriber’s account at IP address 18.104.22.168 even after AT&T received multiple copyright infringement notices at that address. AT&T has received at least 1000 copyright infringement notices for this IP address”.
A similar complaint is filed in the lawsuit against Verizon. The film producers claim that their anti-piracy agent has logged hundreds of thousands of pirated films shared on ISP networks, and add that more than 90,000 copyright notices have been sent to the internet company, and yet – according to the producers – no real action has been taken against the offenders.
And, in some cases, infringement notices weren’t even forwarded to customers who allegedly infringed copyright. And not only that, but producers have various issues with Verizon’s system to even receive copyright notices.
With all of this in mind, the producers say, ISPs should be held liable for copyright infringement. They seek damages and require ISPs to have repeat offender policies and – as with some of their other lawsuits – that defendants agree to block access to certain piracy sites.
We look forward to seeing the responses from the two net companies.