Business News Digital

Cox Communications customers pulled into safe habour dispute

By | Published on Thursday 18 June 2015

Cox Communications

250 customers of Cox Communications have been pulled into a legal battle between the American ISP and music companies BMG and Round Hill Music.

As previously reported, the two music rights businesses sued the net firm last year, claiming that the failure of Cox Communications to forward warning letters to suspected file-sharers amongst its customer base meant it should no longer benefit from the safe harbours that mean that ISPs cannot be held liable for the copyright infringing activity of their customers. Cox is the biggest of the US ISPs not to take part in the country’s Copyright Alert System, via which other net providers do forward letters to suspected file-sharers.

According to Torrentfreak, as part of the ongoing case BMG and Round Hill requested information about the repeat infringers it had identified on Cox’s networks. Although there were 150,000 suspected file-sharers in total, the court said Cox must hand over information relating to the 250 most prolific alleged copyright infringers.

The ISP then wrote to those customers to tell them their names and addresses would have to be shared with BMG and Round Hill, and that each customer should seek legal advice on what that meant. Customers were given the option to object to their data being shared, but only 32 did. Cox is now waiting for court guidance on what to do about those 32 people.

Some of the affected customers have criticised Cox for handing over so much information in one go, while noting that some weren’t even customers of the ISP at the time of the alleged file-sharing. Though the net firm has put the blame on the courts and, by association, BMG and Round Hill, telling customers: “We regret being placed in the position of sending this letter, but want you to have every opportunity to protect your interests. We are not permitted to give you legal advice and encourage you to consult an attorney immediately”.

It remains to be seen if the two rights owners now begin separate legal proceedings against the 218 suspected file-sharers it has identified – the usual tactic is to write to these people offering a one-off settlement deal to avoid legal action if they agree to never file-share again. Though BMG and Round Hill are really interested in the liabilities of Cox here, so they may use this contact information for something quite different, in order to build their case against the net firm. Time will tell.