A group of 17 major record companies, including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group, filed suit on Tuesday against internet service provider (ISP) RCN Corporation. In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that RCN “knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, copyright infringement by RCN subscribers, including thousands of repeat infringers.”
The record labels want to hold RCN liable for piracy committed by millions of its users, based on the ISP’s failure to terminate the accounts of repeat offenders or to take other meaningful steps to stop piracy.
The case is the latest to use an ISP’s failure to target repeat infringers to establish liability for lost profits due to piracy. Normally an ISP would not be held liable for copyright infringement by their users due to the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). However, the plaintiffs in this and similar cases claim that ISPs forfeit this protection when they fail to go after repeat infringers as required by the DMCA.
When BMG Rights Management first used this tactic in 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the defendant ISP had indeed forfeited their safe harbor protections under the DMCA by failing to implement a system for terminating repeat copyright infringers. Other media companies have followed suit, and similar cases are ongoing against other ISPs.