ISP Grande Wants Judge to Overrule Jury’s $47 Million Piracy Liability Verdict

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Internet provider Grande Communications has asked a Texas federal court to overrule a jury verdict that awarded $47 million in piracy damages to several record labels. If that's not an option, the ISP would like to have a new trial. In the event that both options are off the table, Grande plans to appeal the piracy liability case.

grande astoundLast fall, the Texan federal jury ruled that Grande is guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and must pay the record labels $47 million in damages.

U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra confirmed the judgment on January 31st, as can be seen below, but that doesn’t mean that Grande has given up the fight. Recent court filings show that the company is exploring several options to contest the decision.

judgment grande

Judge or New Jury

On February 27, Grande filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. Put simply, Grande wants the Judge to overrule the jury, which can happen if the evidence clearly weighs in favor of the requesting party, but when a jury found otherwise.

Grande hopes to find the court on its side and lists a variety of shortcomings in the presented evidence, casting doubt over the jury’s conclusion.

According to the ISP, the record labels failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that its subscribers committed copyright infringement. For example, there were no copies of the 1,403 original copyrighted works to compare against the alleged pirate copies, and it’s unclear if the infringers were actually Grande subscribers, instead of unauthorized network users.

The music companies also failed to show that Grande was “wilfully blind” to the alleged infringement, the filing argues. Tracking company Rightscorp sent many thousands of piracy notices but the ISP says it wasn’t convinced that the warnings were legitimate.

“At trial, the only evidence of actual knowledge was the collection of emails Rightscorp sent to Grande accusing certain Grande IP addresses of being the source of infringing activity,” Grande writes.

“This was legally insufficient because Plaintiffs presented no evidence that Grande could actually verify the accuracy of Rightscorp’s accusations. In fact, the evidence conclusively established that Grande had no way of knowing whether Rightscorp’s accusations were true.”

Who Owns the Music?

The motion also touches on several other presumed shortcomings. For example, the ISP says there was insufficient evidence to show that the music companies own each of the 1,403 sound recordings at the center of the lawsuit.

Leading up to the trial, the record labels requested summary judgment that could have decided the question of ownership, but the request was denied. The court later stated that it already ruled on ownership but Grande believes that was an error.

“At trial, there was no evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that Plaintiffs own the copyrights to the 1,403 sound recordings at issue,” Grande writes.

What’s Next?

All in all, the ISP believes that since several pieces of evidence are legally insufficient, that warrants a directed judgment. Alternatively, the trial could get a do-over if the Court agrees that the jury verdict goes against the weight of evidence or if there are other shortcomings or clear errors.

“For these reasons, the Court should grant JMOL in favor of Grande on Plaintiffs’ contributory infringement claim or, in the alternative, grant a new trial,” Grande writes.

With $47 million in damages on the line, the stakes are high. If Judge Ezra denies both requests, Grande says it will appeal the decision at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

A copy of Grande Communications’ request for a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial is available here (pdf). The notice to appeal is available here (pdf).


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