Cox Will Share Names of ‘Pirating’ Business Subscribers With Record Labels

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As part of an ongoing lawsuit against several record labels, Internet provider Cox Communications has agreed to share the names and addresses of business subscribers who've been accused of sharing pirated material. The disclosure is cemented in a stipulated court order. What the labels plan to do with the information is currently unknown.

Last summer, Cox ended its piracy liability lawsuit with music company BMG, agreeing to a “substantial settlement.”

That didn’t mean an end to the ISP’s legal trouble though. Cox remains caught up in another lawsuit filed by a group of major music labels, all members of the RIAA.

The labels argue that Cox categorically failed to terminate repeat copyright infringers and that it substantially profited from this ongoing ‘piracy’ activity. All at the expense of the record labels and other rightsholders.

Most of these alleged copyright-infringers are situated in regular households. However, Cox also offers Internet connections to business clients and many of these – 2,793 to be precise – were also flagged as pirates.

This essentially means that the ISP received copyright infringement notices for activity that took place on the IP-addresses that were assigned to these companies. This is a group of customers the RIAA labels are particularly interested in. 

During discovery, the labels have asked Cox to identify these business subscribers. The ISP initially only shared some billing and payment data, but that was not enough for the music companies, which want names and addresses as well. 

This is a rather broad request that we haven’t seen before, one that puts the Internet provider in a tough spot. Not least because handing over personal data of customers without a court order goes against its privacy policy.

This week Cox and the labels submitted a proposed stipulated order in which the ISP agrees to hand over the information. There doesn’t appear to have been any opposition from the ISP, but both parties request a signed court order to address the privacy policy restrictions. 

The order, swiftly signed by U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady, requires the ISP to identify the 2,793 business subscribers for which it received copyright infringement notices between February 1, 2013 and November 26, 2014.

“It is hereby stipulated and agreed by and between Plaintiffs and Cox that Cox shall make reasonable efforts to notify the Business Subscribers, within five days of entry of this Stipulated Order, of Cox’s intent to disclose their name and contact information to Plaintiffs pursuant to this Order,” it reads.

From the order

The order also requires Cox to alert the affected business subscribers, who will then have the option to protest the decision. If that doesn’t happen, the personal information will be handed over to the labels.

The names and addresses of the business subscribers won’t be made public, as they fall under an earlier signed protective order. This states that any personal information of subscribers is classified as “highly confidential” data which means that it’s for attorneys’ eyes only.

While the paperwork is in order, one burning question remains. Why are the RIAA labels interested in knowing which businesses were flagged for copyright infringement?

There are no signs that any of these companies will be pursued individually.  What is clear, however, is that the music companies see the information as substantial evidence that will help to argue their case. Time will tell what the exact purpose is.

A copy of the stipulated order to product identifying information concerning certain Cox business subscribers is available here (pdf).


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