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Cox Communications settles with BMG over takedown notice spat

By | Published on Thursday 29 July 2021

Cox Communications

US internet service provider Cox Communications has settled its most recent dispute with BMG, earlier this week voluntarily dismissing a lawsuit it filed against the music company in May.

A previous legal battle between BMG and Cox proved very significant, of course. BMG accused Cox of having a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with copyright infringers among its user base, and argued that as a result the net firm should not be protected by the copyright safe harbour, in turn allowing it to be held liable for its users’ infringing ways.

BMG won that case and – although the ruling was overturned on appeal because of a technicality, resulting in a subsequent out-of-court settlement – it set a precedent regarding the liabilities of internet companies with mediocre systems in place to deal with copyright infringement and repeat infringers on their networks.

The majors subsequently sued Cox and won a billion dollars in damages, although the appeal of that ruling is still going through the motions. The major music companies also filed similar lawsuits against a flurry of other American ISPs.

But in May, it was Cox going legal, filing a complaint about BMG, its anti-piracy agent Rightscorp, and the copyright takedown notices that they continue to submit to the internet firm.

In that new lawsuit, Cox took issue with the systems employed by Rightscorp when sending takedowns on behalf of BMG, in particular the email address the anti-piracy agent is using.

Cox changed the email address for takedowns to be sent to back in 2017, basically introducing a specific email account for such notices to make it easier to identify and respond to them. But, it said, Rightscorp continued to use the old generic email address.

The lawsuit said: ‚ÄúDespite Cox’s public notice [about the email address change], and despite multiple subsequent requests and warnings, Rightscorp persisted in sending on behalf of BMG tens of thousands of notices to Cox’s old address. As Cox advised defendants on numerous occasions, including through outside counsel, Rightscorp’s actions rendered the notices invalid and unactionable as a matter of law”.

The legal filing then proposed something of a conspiracy theory as to why Rightscorp hadn’t started using the new email address for its takedowns.

“It is clear that defendants have persisted in this blatant non-compliance in a calculated effort to manufacture evidence to support a massive secondary infringement action against Cox”, it stated. “Plainly, defendants intend to claim that Cox’s decision not to process these invalid notices renders it ineligible for the DMCA safe harbour protections and, therefore, subject to potentially astronomical monetary damages”.

Cox then requested that the court confirm that all the takedown requests sent by Rightscorp to the old email address were invalid. It also asked for “an order enjoining defendants from continuing these abusive practices, monetary damages, and any other such further relief that the court may deem just and proper”.

However, no such confirmation or order seems to be required, because Cox has reached a settlement with BMG and Rightscorp, and as such has told the court it is voluntary dismissing the case. Specifics of the settlement are not know. Though, if nothing else, presumably Rightscorp has agreed to update its email address book.