Cox piracy ruling could open Pandora’s Box for US telcos

Cox Communications has found itself on the wrong wide of a $1 billion cheque after a court ruled it did not do enough to prevent illegal download of content across its network.

The telco of course plans to appeal the case, though the lawsuit suggested the team prioritised profits over legal obligations to prevent the illegal distribution of copyright protected content. The lawsuit brought to the courts by 53 music companies focused on 10,017 recordings and compositions. For each case, Cox Communications is liable to pay just over $99,000 to the copyright owner.

“The judgement is unwarranted, unjust and an egregious amount,” Cox said in a statement. “We plan to appeal the case and vigorously defend ourselves.

“We provide customers with a powerful tool that connects to a world full of content and information. Unfortunately, some customers have chosen to use that connection for wrongful activity. We don’t condone it, we educate on it and we do our best to help curb it, but we shouldn’t be held responsible for the bad actions of others.”

Cox executives will of course not be happy with the outcome, but there will be numerous other parties across the US who might be fretting also. In short, this case sets precedent and in ruling Cox is financially liable for copyright infringement, the door has been opened to take other communication service providers to court.

When you consider how litigious the US is as a society, it would not be too surprising to see a broad range of lawsuit, from the different segments of the content world, filed against the telcos.

In this case, Cox Communications was found to be at fault because it did not do enough to prevent copyright infringement through the communications service it provides. While previously the individual not the internet companies have been the focal point of prosecutions, this opens-up a whole new avenue for rights owners who believe communications service providers are being negligent, or too passive.

AT&T is one company which might be sleeping easier than others though. Last year, AT&T reshaped its own piracy policies which led to the first instance of it cutting off customers from internet services due to piracy infringements. Examples of proactive protection of copyright like this is what the telcos will need to prove if they are to avoid the same significant financial burdens as Cox is facing here.

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