U.S. copyright law requires internet providers to shut down the accounts of repeat copyright infringers in certain cases. The reluctance of internet providers (ISPs) to adhere to this rule has led to infringement lawsuits over the past several years.
RCN is one of the named providers, and in 2021, they were sued by various film companies that allege that the IP wasn’t acting to stem piracy on its network. Instead of shutting down accounts of repeat pirates, the company looked the other way.
In liability lawsuits like this one, the stakes are high, with hundreds of millions in damages being sought after. Tens of thousands of subscribers risk account termination.
Copyright Infringement Case Not Dismissed
RCN is aggressively defending itself, as they have done in previous lawsuits of this kind. They filed a proactive lawsuit in 2016 against music rights firm BMG that was settled. They have also been sued by other music companies.
This lawsuit makes new claims. In addition to demanding that the ISP accepts responsibility for users’ copyright infringements, the suit also alleges DMCA violations and requests that the site is blocked.
Last year, RCN asked the court to dismiss all claims. However, the federal court judge sided with the filmmakers. The court agrees that RCN is liable for its subscribers’ copyright infringement. Evidence that RCN was aware of the problem includes 5,400 piracy notices sent to the ISP, with no action taken. The Judge found that RCN can control infringing activity and that it profits from it. It was also found that allowing piracy on the platform helps to attract subscribers.
Judge Denies Site Blocking Request
In an unusual move, the plaintiffs asked for a site-blocking injunction that would have required RCN to block overseas piracy sites like The Pirate Bay, YTS and 1337x. RCN objected that an injunction of this type is a remedy and not a separate cause of action, and the court agreed. This ruling doesn’t take a blocking injunction permanently off the table. The plaintiffs can still ask for one as a remedy, as part of their infringement claims.
Request to Dismiss DMCA Violations Denied
The Judge also refused the ISP’s request to dismiss the filmmakers’ DMCA violation claims, ruling that the ISP is responsible for users’ alterations of CMI (copyright management information) in pirated films. Uploaders changed CMI to include terms that indicated movie quality, drawing more site traffic. CMI DMCA violations are increasing in recent piracy lawsuits.