Jury Slaps Cox With $25 Million Verdict For Ignoring Rogue Pirates

A jury decided that Cox Communications should have to pay BMG $25 million for not doing more to prevent its subscribers from illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted music files. The award is less than a quarter of the maximum amount Cox could have been fined, though it's a huge blow to the ISP nonetheless.

BMG took Cox Communications to court over allegations that it essentially ignored the illegal activity occurring on its network. It also took issue with the ISP failing to address repeat offenders by not sending notices to pirates or taking any action to stop some of them from sharing copyrighted songs through BitTorrent applications.

Cox Van

"Cox not only knowingly provides the means by which the infringement of BMG’s copyrights occurs, the evidence is undisputed that Cox promotes its high-speed internet services for the purpose of downloading and sharing music," BMG writes in its lawsuit. "Because Cox’s network constitutes the sites and facilities by which the infringement of BMG’s occurs through BitTorrent and P2P, Cox has materially contributed to the infringement of BMG’s copyrights as a matter of law. No reasonable jury could find otherwise."

Weeks before the $25 million verdict, a judge essentially agreed with BMG, ruling that Cox Communications wasn't entitled to DMCA saffe-harbor protections because it didn't close accounts of repeat offenders. As part of the DMCA, ISPs are required to do everything in their power to stop digital pirates.

The ISP was far too lenient. Even worse, an internal email suggests it was deliberately ignoring some of the illegal activity for its own financial gain.

"This way, we can collect a few extra weeks of payments for their account," Cox's Manager of Customer Abuse Operations stated in an email, according to documentation presented to the court.

The jury award could have been much higher. Had the jury decided to levy the maximum $150,000 in damages for each of the 1,397 copyrighted songs BMG wanted it to take into consideration, the total fine would have been $209,550,000.