Last year, Internet provider Cox Communications lost its legal battle against a group of major record labels.
Following a two-week trial, a Virginia jury held Cox liable for its pirating subscribers, ordering the company to pay $1 billion in damages.
Heavily disappointed by the decision, Cox later asked the court to set the jury verdict aside and decide the issue directly. In addition, the ISP argued that the “shockingly excessive” damages should be lowered. If that wasn’t an option, Cox wanted a new trial.
No Miscarriage of Justice
In June the court denied Cox’s request for a new trial and the damages amount per work wasn’t seen as excessive either. The jury set this amount at $99,830 per work. Cox summed up a list of arguments why this is “historic” amount is “shockingly” excessive. However, unlike Cox, the court saw no “miscarriage of justice.”
“In sum, Plaintiffs were well within their rights to elect both a jury trial and statutory damages. After significant deliberation, the jury awarded $99,830.29 per work, well within the Act’s statutory range of $750.00-$150,000.00,” Judge O’Grady wrote.
These conclusions were a major disappointment for Cox, but there was also a positive note. The court agreed with the ISP that damages should be issued per ‘work’ and not for each ‘copyright,’ as was the case in the original verdict.
Overlapping Works Shouldn’t Count
The $1 billion in damages is based on 10,017 copyrights, multiplied by $99,3830 in damages. However, the court said that infringers shouldn’t be punished multiple times for one pirated track simply because there are more copyrights related to it. After all, some tracks can easily have 20 different copyright holders.
Over the past few weeks, the ISP went over all the works that were listed by the music companies. According to its analysis, this includes thousands of overlapping copyrights.
This careful examination of the evidence didn’t just reveal derivative tracks. As it turns out, the original list of tracks also included the musical composition “Shine” twice. A small mistake, but one that cost nearly $100,000.
$243 Million Reduction
After going over all the provided evidence, Cox argues that 2,438 works should be removed. This represents a total damages value of $243,386.25.
“The total number of works to be removed from the damages award under the Court’s order is thus 2,438, leaving 7,579 works in suit that are eligible for statutory damages,” Cox writes.
“Applying the per-work award of $99,830.29 to the 7,579 remaining works in suit, the statutory damages award should be reduced from $1 billion to $756,613,767.91,” the Internet provider adds.
While this is still a historically high damages award, shaving off nearly a quarter-billion from the original sum is certainly significant. That said, this is all based on Cox’s calculations and has yet to be formally approved by the court.
A copy of Cox’s post-trial response brief, detailing its calculations, is available here (pdf)