Last December a Virginia federal jury ruled that Internet provider Cox Communications was responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.
The ISP was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.
The verdict was a massive victory for the music company and a disaster for Cox, who quickly appealed.
What has been largely overseen, however, is that BMG was not the only music outfit that sued the Internet provider in this case. The initial complaint also listed Round Hill Music as a second plaintiff.
Interestingly, Round Hill’s claims were dismissed a few weeks before the final verdict came in. Based on evidence highlighted by Cox, the court concluded that the music outfit didn’t own the copyrights for the songs it was suing over, so it had no standing in the case.
While Cox was pleased with the ruling, it wasn’t happy with the hundreds of hours its legal team spent countering the false copyright claims. For this reason, it now hopes to be compensated for the tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs.
In a motion for attorney’s fees and costs (pdf) filed at Virginia federal court late last week, Cox Communications writes that Round Hill had a losing case to begin with.
“Round Hill’s case against Cox was unreasonable from start to finish: it brought claims of copyright infringement without owning any copyrights, and it continued to pursue those claims aggressively even after Cox exposed the obvious defect on this threshold issue.”
Only exclusive rightsholders are entitled to file a copyright infringement. According to Cox, Round Hill Music intentionally tried to hide their shortcomings, hoping to win millions in damages.
However, their plan failed and now the ISP is the one asking the court for compensation.
“Round Hill’s repeated obfuscation of the facts, and the continued and aggressive pursuit of those claims after their falsehood was apparent, warrant an award to Cox of the fees Cox incurred defending against those claims,” Cox writes.
“Cox invested considerable time and effort in discovery pinning down Round Hill’s elusive and false ownership claims,” they add.
When awarding legal fees and costs, an important aspect courts have to review is the “degree of success” of the prevailing defendant. In this lawsuit there should be little doubt about the outcome.
“Cox prevailed completely over Round Hill. The Court’s ruling on Round Hill’s ownership disposed of all of its claims against Cox: the Court found that ‘Round Hill Music LP cannot proceed in this action and its claims for infringement against Cox are dismissed’,” the ISP writes.
After adding up over 300 hours of attorney and paralegal work, Cox requests an award of $71,835 as well as an additional $35,000 for hours spent on the current motion and future replies.
If the court agrees, that means Cox finally has something small to celebrate in this case. However, at the same time there’s also more trouble looming on the horizon.
Cox is not the only party in the case to submit a motion for attorney’s fees and costs. BMG did exactly the same and their tab is significantly higher, totalling more than $13 million, which is quite a scary prospect.
During the coming weeks the court will review both requests, as well as the various opposition and reply brief that will undoubtedly be filed.