Frontier Communications Faces Lawsuit From Record Labels For Allowing Rampant Music Piracy

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A bunch of record labels including Sony Music, Capitol Records, and Warner Music have filed a joint lawsuit against Frontier Communications for not disconnecting internet subscribers who "repeatedly infringe" on copyrights by illegally downloading and sharing music. The lawsuit also suggests Frontier allegedly encourages such behavior by advertising the ability to "download 10 songs in 3.5 seconds" on its high-speed tiers.

Frontier is an internet service provide (ISP) that serves more than 3 million broadband subscribers, including both residential and business customers, in at least 25 states. That's a drop in the bucket compared to ISPs like Comcast and Spectrum, but it still ranks as one of the largest ISPs in the United States, with $1.68 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2021.

"At all pertinent times, Frontier knew that its subscribers were using its high-speed network to illegally download and distribute Plaintiffs’ sound recordings on Frontier’s network," the lawsuit states. "Frontier has received hundreds of thousands of copyright infringement notices from copyright owners, including Plaintiffs, but chose not to act on those notices and address the rampant infringement on its network."

The lawsuit essentially accuses Frontier of being complicit, saying it "knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringements" allegedly carried out by its subscribers. It also says the ISP received infringement notices from records labels that alerted it to subscribers distributing copyrighted songs through BitTorrent sites and other file sharing services, but that "Frontier failed to adequately respond to these notices."

"[Frontier] deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its subscribers from using its service to infringe on the copyrights of others, including Plaintiffs, despite having direct knowledge of particular subscribers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement," the lawsuit states.

In total, the lawsuit against Frontier (PDF) says record labels sent over 20,000 copyright infringement notices to Frontier, which detailed specific instances of subscribers using peer-to-peer (P2P) services on the ISP's network to illegally distribute songs.

"Frontier’s motivation for refusing to terminate or suspend the accounts of blatant infringing subscribers was simple: it valued its own profits over its legal responsibilities. Retaining infringing subscribers provided a direct financial benefit to Frontier. Frontier did not want to lose subscriber revenue by terminating accounts of infringing subscribers," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges that Frontier avoided disconnecting customers because doing so would make its service less attractive to both existing and potential new subscribers, and that turning a blind eye was "especially profitable" for the ISP."

Frontier denies the allegations, saying in a statement that it did actually disconnect customers when receiving copyright complaints, and that it plans to "vigorously defend itself."

The lawsuit is seeking $300,000 for each infringement. Added up, the tally would come to $850 million, if a court sides with the record labels and finds Frontier should be on the hook for the requested amount. It remains to be seen how this will play out. It's also worth mentioning that Frontier filed for bankruptcy around a year ago, and following a restructuring plan, went public again on May 4.