In December, a group of major media companies (*) won a case against Cox Communications, which was found guilty of copyright infringement allegedly by failing to fully measure Cox network users who were downloading music illegally, and by failing to take adequate countermeasures against them. The jury in the case awarded nearly $100,000 per music work, times more than 10,000 works, resulting in a (roughly) billion dollar total.
Why it matters
While this particular case is about music, not video, there are several concerns. While stopping pirates is always good, the award seems disproportionately excessive.
At the end of January (last week, as I write this), Cox filed a motion with the US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia which aligns with that concern, saying that it’s the largest award in history “by a factor of eight,” and to have the award reduced or have a new trial altogether.
Beyond the concern that the award is excessive, another concern is about the power of ‘big media’ companies that have the corporate resources to press for and win such an award. For every infringement case against corporate media, there are surely many more against individual artists and independent “one person operations” who are simply trying to make a living and would never win such an enormous settlement, let alone have the resources to bring suit against an infringer at all.
Such disproportionate awards also set the bar so high that legitimate future plaintiffs might not be taken seriously; that they would be perceived to be in the same class as patent trolls and others with sometimes questionable intentions.
(*) The plaintiff companies were “Sony Music Entertainment, et al,” which also included Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and EMI Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell Music, according to Law Street Media.