For roughly two decades, copyright holders have been sending notices to ISPs, alerting them that subscribers are sharing copyrighted material.
Under the DMCA, providers must terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances” but actual disconnections are relatively rare.
Many copyright holders would like to see ISPs handle things differently, something which has led to a list of lawsuits that continues to expand every year. Not just in volume – the demands have broadened over time too.
U.S.-based Internet provider RCN is no stranger to these legal battles. In 2016, the company got involved by filing a proactive lawsuit against music rights group BMG, asking the court to declare that it is not responsible for pirating customers.
That case was eventually settled but, soon after, several other music companies took the company to court again, demanding millions in piracy damages. While that case is still pending, RCN can now add another lawsuit to the list.
Another Repeat Infringer Lawsuit
A few days ago a group of movie companies filed a complaint at a federal court in New Jersey, accusing the company of failing to take action against repeat copyright infringers.
The plaintiffs include the makers of films such as The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, London Has Fallen, and Hellboy. The same companies filed similar lawsuits against Internet providers Grande Communications, and WOW! in recent weeks.
The allegations against RCN are pretty much identical to those against other ISPs. In essence, the company stands accused of failing to take meaningful action against repeat copyright infringers, while profiting from this inaction.
Thousands of Notices
According to the complaint, RCN received thousands of copyright infringement notices from the movie outfits but many of the affected subscribers were able to continue their pirating activities undeterred.
“Defendants failed to terminate the account and/or take any meaningful action against their subscriber at IP address 126.96.36.199 even after Plaintiffs’ agent sent over 100 Notices and Plaintiffs’ counsel sent a letter,” one example reads.
The movie companies argue that RCN’s failure to take action means that the ISP is not eligible for the DMCA’s safe harbor protection. As such, it should be held liable for the copyright infringements of subscribers.
Damages, Terminations, and Site Blocking
Similar to the other lawsuits, the plaintiffs demand millions of dollars in damages. In addition, they want RCN to disconnect all subscribers for which it receives three unique infringement notices within 72 hours.
Finally, the movie companies also request an order that requires the ISP to block all foreign piracy websites that are listed in the US Trade Representative’s annual Notorious Markets List. This includes The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Fmovies, Rapidgator, and Sci-Hub.
As mentioned earlier, “repeat infringer” lawsuits are not new but the site-blocking element certainly is. It first appeared in a bankruptcy case against Frontier a few weeks ago, and similar requests were made in the subsequent lawsuits against WOW! and Grande.
While it’s possible that some of these cases will be settled outside of court, there’s a good chance that pirate site blocking as injunctive relief will be properly tested in a US court for the first time.
A copy of the movie companies’ complaint against RCN Telecom Services, filed at the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, is available here (pdf)