RIAA Sues ISP Grande Communications For Failing to Disconnect Pirates

The RIAA has sued Grande Communications for failing to take action against its pirating subscribers. The music industry group says that the Texas-based ISP's subscribers engaged in more than a million BitTorrent-based infringements yet took "no meaningful action to discourage this continuing theft."

Despite approaching the problem from a number of directions, major copyright holders have been unable to do much to stop millions of BitTorrent-based infringements taking place every day.

A new lawsuit filed by the RIAA against ISP Grande Communications aims to change all that.

Yesterday, UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and almost a dozen other music companies sued the Texas-based provider over the infringements of its subscribers.

“Defendants have been notified that their internet customers have engaged in more than one million infringements of copyrighted works over BitTorrent systems, including tens of thousands of blatant infringements by repeat infringers of Plaintiffs’copyrighted works,” the lawsuit reads.

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted
repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence.”

Right from the outset it’s clear that this case has a lot in common with the litigation currently underway against Cox Communications. In that case, Cox was accused by publishing company BMG of not taking significant action against thousands of its customers who persistently shared content using BitTorrent.

Like BMG’s case against Cox, the RIAA’s suit against Grande aims to strip away the protection the ISP normally enjoys under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. By not taking “meaningful action” against repeat infringers, the RIAA says that Grande can be held liable for the copyright infringements of its customers.

“Neither Grande or its management company Patriot has taken any meaningful action to discourage this continuing theft, let alone suspend or terminate subscribers who repeatedly commit copyright infringement through its network, as required by law,” the RIAA writes.

“Upon information and belief, this is so even where Defendants have specific and actual knowledge of those subscribers’ blatant, repeat infringement. Defendants’ effective acquiescence in this wholesale violation of Plaintiffs’ rights, coupled with their failure to adopt and reasonably implement a policy to stop repeat infringers, excludes Defendants from the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’).”

The RIAA says that since Grande failed to take action against infringers, especially those identified as repeat infringers, it protected a “significant revenue stream” it receives each month from pirating subscribers. As such it is not only liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, but inducement of copyright infringement too.

What’s also interesting about this case is the involvement of anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp. The anti-piracy settlement company is deeply involved in the Cox case having provided the infringement data for the litigation. The same is true of the case against Grande.

It appears that Rightscorp’s claimed expertise in identifying repeat infringers is now central to the case, having had contact with Grande in the past. It seems likely that historical data collected by the company is now proving useful in the RIAA’s case against Grande.

“Rightscorp has provided Grande with notice of specific infringers using Grande’s internet service to infringe various copyrighted works. Rightscorp also requested that Grande terminate the ‘subscribers and account holders’ who are repeat infringers of copyrighted works,” the RIAA writes.

“Despite its knowledge of specific repeat infringers of copyrighted works, Grande apparently refused to do so.”

The RIAA says that Grande received notices that 1,840 of its customers had engaged in infringement at least 100 times, with 456 customers generating 500 infringement notices between them. More than 200 subscribers generated 1000 notices each with some generating more than 2000.

In closing, the RIAA seeks statutory damages, which could go up to $150,000 per infringed work, actual damages, plus profits generated by Grande as a result of infringement. The music group also asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing Grande from further infringement, plus a jury trial in due course.

Having backed away from the so-called “six strikes” scheme earlier this year, the RIAA was left without any effective means to tackle online infringement. It’s now clear that it intends to force Internet service providers to be its unpaid enforcers.

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