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Cox Communications seeks legal costs from Round Hill Music

By | Published on Wednesday 5 October 2016

Cox Communications

While US internet service provider Cox Communications gets about appealing the landmark ruling made against it in a legal battle with BMG last year, the net firm is also trying to get some money out of another music company originally involved in that lawsuit.

As previously reported, BMG basically accused Cox of operating a deliberately shoddy system for tackling suspected file-sharers on its networks. Most other ISPs in the US are signed up to the Copyright Alert System, under which they commit to forward warning letters to suspected file-sharers on behalf of rights owners who have spotted some file-sharing. Cox is not part of that programme, but insists that it has its own procedures instead.

However, BMG demonstrated in court that those procedures were ineffective, in particular presenting internal correspondence between Cox employees that suggested the policy was to be lenient with file-sharing customers, so as not to lose their custom. BMG successfully argued that this meant Cox should lose its protection under the safe harbours of copyright law and be held liable for the infringement of its users. The net firm was then ordered to pay $25 million in damages.

When that legal action was originally launched, two music rights companies were involved, with Round Hill Music joining BMG for the ride. Among various arguments that Cox presented while trying to defeat the litigation, it questioned whether or not the music rights firms actually owned the copyright in the specific songs listed as having been infringed in their lawsuit. On that point, Cox enjoyed some success when it came to Round Hill, which was then dropped from the action.

While coverage of the case since then has mainly focused on BMG’s success in court and Cox’s subsequent appeal, the internet company has also been adding up what it spent defending the Round Hill side of the lawsuit. It now wants the music rights firm to be forced to cover those costs on the basis it went legal without being in a position to actually sue for the infringement of the songs it claimed had been infringed.

Or in the words of a court filing made in Virgina last week, published by Torrrentfreak here: “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”.

The legal claim goes on: “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 invested considerable time and effort in discovery pinning down Round Hill’s elusive and false ownership claims”.

Having done some maths, Cox reckons Round Hill should pay it over $100,000 to cover the costs of defending the big lawsuit, and the new costs it now faces in pursuing this action.