Internet provider Cox Communications is responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers, a Virginia federal jury has ruled. The ISP is guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and must pay music publisher BMG $25 million in damages.
Today marks the end of a crucial case that will define how U.S. Internet providers deal with online piracy in the future.
Following a two-week trial a Virginia federal jury reached a verdict earlier today, ruling that Cox is guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement.
The case was initiated by BMG Rights Management, which held the ISP responsible for tens of thousands of copyright infringements that were committed by its subscribers.
During the trial hearings BMG revealed that the tracking company Rightscorp downloaded more than 150,000 copies of their copyrighted works directly from Cox subscribers.
It also became apparent that Cox had received numerous copyright infringement warnings from Rightscorp which it willingly decided not to act on.
The case was restricted to 1,397 copyrighted works and a six-person jury awarded #25 million in damages. The award is lower than the statutory maximum, which would have been over $200 million.
A week before the trial started Judge O’Grady issued an order declaring that Cox was not entitled to DMCA safe-harbor protections, as the company failed to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers.
BMG also argued that the ISP willingly profited from pirating subscribers, but the jury found that there was not enough evidence to back this up.
The verdict is bound to cause grave concern among various other U.S. Internet providers. At the moment it’s rare for ISPs to disconnect pirating users and this case is likely to change that position.
The verdict is likely to be appealed by Cox. No official statement has been released yet by ISP or BMG.