Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.
Music rights company BMG got the ball rolling a few years ago when it won its piracy liability lawsuit against Cox
Following this defeat, several major record labels including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music followed suit by filing a similar lawsuit in a Virginia District Court. With help from the RIAA, they also sued Cox for allegedly turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.
According to the rightsholders, the Internet provider knew that some of its subscribers were frequently distributing copyrighted material, accusing the company of failing to take any meaningful action in response.
Over the past months, both parties have conducted discovery and the case is currently scheduled to go to trial in December. For a moment it appeared that things wouldn’t get that far. In June, both parties indicated that there were open to a settlement discussion which was scheduled to take place in Court last week.
While the music companies and the ISP both agreed to the hearing, Cox canceled it two days in advance, with its attorney stating that his client does not believe the settlement discussions would be productive.
This cancellation didn’t go down well with the music companies. In a status report, they now complain about Cox’s behavior. According to the filing, several of the music company representatives incurred traveling costs and one person was already in the air at the time the hearing was canceled.
The music companies don’t buy the ISP’s explanation either. They say nothing has changed since Cox agreed to the settlement discussions several weeks ago.
“Between the final pretrial conference and Cox’s unilateral cancelation yesterday, absolutely nothing had happened between the parties to justify Cox’s about-face,” the plaintiffs inform the court.
“Had Cox taken this process seriously, it would have known long before yesterday that it thought settlement discussions would not be productive. Instead, Cox misled the Court and Plaintiffs for more than six weeks, forcing both to expend resources and distract from other important matters,” they add.
According to the music companies, Cox is deliberately delaying and obstructing the case. In the status report, they accuse the Internet provider of gamesmanship.
“Throughout the case, Cox has demonstrated a consistent pattern of obstruction, delay and gamesmanship. Plaintiffs thus have concern that Cox’s approach to the settlement conference was just a ruse to distract Plaintiffs at a critical time. In discovery, Cox took absurd positions, objecting to basic discovery,” they write.
Taken together, Cox’s actions deserve a sanction from the court, the music companies argue. While they haven’t submitted a formal motion for sanctions, they point out that this situation warrants one.
“The Court has broad discretion to enter sanctions pursuant to its inherent authority, including without the formality of a motion. This situation clearly calls for it,” the music companies conclude.
If the court doesn’t wish to take any actions of its own accord, the music companies are willing to submit a formal request for sanctions. However, they note that this would only be an added distraction to them.
Whether Cox is sanctioned or not, it is clear that both parties are not on speaking terms at the moment. That will only raise the tension leading up to the forthcoming trial.
A copy of the status report, filed by the music companies, is available here (pdf).