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Music industry’s copyright battle with US net firm RCN moves into mediation

By | Published on Monday 12 June 2023


The ongoing copyright dispute between the major record companies and US internet service provider RCN is heading into mediation, which could result in an out of court of settlement. That development was confirmed last week by the court overseeing the litigation.

RCN is one of a number of American ISPs sued by the music industry for not doing enough to tackle copyright infringement on their networks. A flurry of net firms had lawsuits filed against them after the majors successfully sued Cox Communications, winning a billion dollars in damages.

In all the cases, the music firms have argued that the ISPs did not do enough to deal with repeat infringers among their customer bases to benefit from the copyright safe harbour, which is meant to shield internet companies from copyright liabilities. As a result, those ISPs could be held liable for the infringement of their customers.

Pretty much all the targeted ISPs initially fought back. Like RCN, many accused the labels and the anti-piracy agencies they employ of bad conduct when it comes to the monitoring of copyright infringement on any one ISP’s network, and the issuing of copyright notices to the net firms when infringement is spotted. But those arguments haven’t really worked in court, with the judge dismissing a counterclaim to that effect pursued by RCN.

More recently some of the targeted ISPs have been looking to settle. In a recent update to the court overseeing the music industry’s lawsuit against RCN, a legal rep for the majors stated: “The parties previously engaged in mediation concerning this case and a related case. More recently, the parties have communicated directly about the possibility of settlement but are not currently engaged in settlement discussions. The parties are open to discussing potential settlement avenues with the court”.

Those discussions seemingly took place last week, because on Thursday the court issued a mediation order which noted that “mediation would conserve the resources and be in the best interests of the court and the parties”. It also named a mediator.

The court then ordered that: “This civil action be and hereby is referred to mediation by consent of the parties. Counsel and the parties shall participate in mediation and shall cooperate with the mediator: Hon Freda L Wolfson. Counsel and the parties (including individuals with settlement authority) shall attend mediation sessions as requested by the mediator”.

We await to see if mediation does indeed result in an out of court settlement.