Oct 16, 2023 2 min read

US internet organisations support Grande's appeal in record industry copyright battle

Two trade organisations for the US internet sector have submitted an amicus brief in support of Grande Communications as it continues in its legal battle with the record industry, seeking to overturn a $46.8 million judgement

US internet organisations support Grande's appeal in record industry copyright battle

Two organisations representing US internet and telecoms companies have submitted an amicus brief in support of Grande Communications as it continues its legal battle with the record industry through the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court.

USTelecom and CTIA argue that internet firms disconnecting users who repeatedly use their connections to infringe copyright is not a "simple" or "basic" sanction, as was assumed in the copyright case pursued against Grande by the record companies.

They also cite a recent Supreme Court ruling that considered the obligations of Twitter to block terrorist content on its platform.

Grande was one of the American internet service providers sued by the music industry for not doing enough to combat infringement and infringers on its networks.

The record companies successfully argued that Grande did not do enough to deal with repeat infringers among its customer base and should therefore be held liable for those customers' copyright infringement. A jury ordered Grand to pay the music companies $46.8 million in damages.

In an amicus brief submitted at the end of last month, USTelecom and CTIA say that the precedent set in this case - and others - could compel ISPs to "engage in wide-scale terminations to avoid facing crippling damages", basically cutting off large numbers of users who are suspected to have infringed copyright.

But this, they argue, conflicts with long-term efforts by US Congress to make sure every American has internet access. "Terminating a customer’s internet access prevents anyone from using that connection not just for copyright infringement, but also for any other purpose", they write. "Termination is thus not ‘simple’ or ‘basic’, as the district court believed".

They also note that people other than the actual infringer can be affected by such terminations, something that has been discussed a lot over the years whenever internet disconnections have been considered as a sanction for online copyright infringement.

"Termination prevents everyone - in a household, coffee shop, office, school, library or hospital - who relies on a shared internet connection from using the internet for any purpose, whether remote work, accessing educational or health resources, seeking news or other information, or for entertainment", they write.

Elsewhere the two trade groups discuss the big Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year regarding terrorist content on Twitter, reckoning that the way the top court limited the responsibilities of the social media firm in the context of harmful content should also be applied to ISPs and copyright infringing content.

In the Grande case, they argue, "the district court ... instructed the jury that it should find Grande liable based on the very facts ... held insufficient [in the Twitter case]: knowledge that wrongdoers were infringing using Grande’s internet service and Grande’s passive failure to stop them. That was error, and this court should reverse the judgment".

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