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RCN hits out at “copyright troll” film producers in bid to get safe harbour case dismissed

By | Published on Tuesday 26 October 2021


US internet firm RCN has joined its rival ISP WOW in dubbing the group of independent movie producers that have sued both net firms over the copyright infringement of their users as “copyright trolls”, criticising the tactics of the producers and their anti-piracy agency Maverickeye.

A number of American ISPs have now been sued by this collective of film producers. The lawsuits pretty much follow the lead of litigation filed by BMG and the majors against Cox Communications, and then by the majors against an assortment of other ISPs.

The argument goes that the internet companies have not done enough to deal with repeat infringers among their userbases and therefore can’t rely on so called safe harbour protection from liability for the copyright infringement of their customers.

BMG set the precedent when it successfully made this argument in a lawsuit against Cox, and the majors then followed with their own legal action, winning a billion dollars in damages. The latter Cox ruling is still subject to appeal, while the other lawsuits against the other ISPs filed by the major music firms are still working their way through the system.

In their lawsuits – filed against WOW in July and RCN in August – the film producers make very similar arguments to the music companies. Although, in terms of sanctions, they are also looking for the courts to force the targeted net firms to instigate a three-strikes style system for dealing with repeat infringers moving forward, while also introducing a few web-blocks against various piracy websites, an anti-piracy tactic not really currently available in the US.

Given most of the arguments in the film producer lawsuits are the same as in the music company cases, it’s no surprise that the responses submitted by the ISPs are also very similar.

They mainly question the reliability of the evidence the copyright owners have gathered regarding the direct infringement of their customers. Because if you can’t prove that the users have directly infringed any rights, you can’t hold the ISPs liable for contributory infringement, even if you can prove that a dodgy repeat infringer system means any one net firm should lose its safe harbour protection.

The ISPs were also usually pretty disparaging about the anti-piracy agencies employed by the music companies, though the language now being employed to disparage the film producers and Maverickeye moves things up a level.

RCN basically makes the same allegations against the film producers and Maverickeye as WOW did in a legal filing it made last month, in some cases using the exact same wording.

“Plaintiffs and Maverickeye are part of a well-known web of copyright trolls”, RCN states. “Until now, plaintiffs’ modus operandi has been to file John Doe lawsuits [against alleged infringers] in the hope of securing quick settlements and to dismiss them at the slightest resistance. Plaintiffs are rarely successful in contested cases”.

“Additionally”, it adds, “courts and litigants in these cases have persuasively accused Maverickeye of serious wrongdoing, such as submitting fraudulent ‘expert’ declarations from fictitious persons, violating state law by engaging in unlicensed surveillance, and even conspiring with copyright owners to offer copyrighted content over BitTorrent and then sue anyone who tries to download it”.

It remains to be seen if such tough talking by WOW and now RCN can help get these latest safe harbour testing copyright cases dismissed.