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Movie companies file repeat infringer lawsuits against two more ISPs

By | Published on Thursday 19 August 2021

Grande Communications

The group of movie companies that recently sued American ISP Wide Open West – or WOW! – for not doing do enough to deal with repeat infringers on its network has now filed similar litigation against RCN and Grande Communications.

The three lawsuits now filed by the collective of independent film producers – many of them affiliates of Millennium Media – pretty much follow the lead of the litigation previously pursued by the major record companies against RCN, Grande and other net firms.

They all, in turn, followed BMG’s successful legal battle with Cox Communications, in which it argued that that ISP should be held liable for the copyright infringement of its users.

Internet companies are usually protected from such liability from the copyright safe harbour, but BMG claimed that Cox had not complied with its obligations under American copyright law in order to utilise the safe harbour protections.

In particular, BMG showed that Cox had a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with repeat infringers among its customer base, ie users against whom numerous copyright notices had been filed by the music company. By failing to properly enforce a repeat infringer policy, Cox could be held liable for any infringement that took place on its networks.

The majors subsequently sued Cox too, winning a billion dollars in damages. And similar label-led lawsuits against various other ISPs are still working their way slowly through the motions.

The new lawsuits filed by the movie producers against RCN and Grande are pretty much the same as the earlier lawsuit they filed against WOW! The legal arguments follow the pattern of the earlier music industry cases, although there are some interesting extra elements in all three of the movie company cases.

First, the movie firms have evidence actually provided by the operator a popular BitTorrent service. That service is YTS, and the plaintiffs seemingly got that evidence as part of a past legal settlement with the operator of that site.

The new lawsuits also make some extra demands beyond mega-bucks damages, in particular seeking a court order that would force the ISPs to introduce a three-strikes system for dealing with repeat infringers and to block their users from accessing certain piracy sites.

Three-strikes and web-blocking have both been anti-piracy tactics promoted by music and movie companies over the years, of course.

In the US, a light version of the former was run for a time on a voluntary basis by some ISPs, mainly the cable companies that also have interests in the entertainment business. But proposals in 2011/2012 to introduce a specific web-blocking system into American law proved very controversial indeed, and were ultimately abandoned by law-makers.

It will be interesting to see what the courts make of those extra proposed sanctions if these cases get that far.