In Austin, Texas, a federal jury has ruled that Grande Communications Networks LLC, rebranded as Astound Broadband, must pay several music labels $46.7 million as compensation for music piracy committed by its users. The jury decided that the internet service provider should be held responsible for users’ infringement activities on its platform.
Plaintiffs included Warner Records, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and other labels. They were able to convince the court that the Texas-based ISP was guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement by not acting against repeat infringers.
In 2019, Warner, Sony and Universal won a similar lawsuit, where Cox Communications in Virginia was ordered to pay out $1 billion. The appeal of that verdict is pending.
Labels have sued various ISPs, such as Charter Communications, RCN Corp. and Frontier Communications, for ignoring piracy by their subscribers.
Grande, now part of Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners’ Astound, based in Princeton, New Jersey, was sued in 2017 by various labels. In that case, it was pointed out that the labels owned the rights to some of the most popular musicians in the world, such as Tony Bennett, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson.
The complaint stated that these labels sent Grande more than a million infringement notices, alerting them to illegal music piracy by thousands of their subscribers through BitTorrent software. They accused the ISP of failing to crack down on the infringement for fear of losing revenue.
Grande argued that as an internet service provider, they never encouraged infringement and cannot be held responsible for their subscribers’ actions. They also claimed that the notices were flawed, and the damages were excessive. With their final ruling, the jury disagreed.
The court case is UMG Recordings Inc. v Grande Communications Networks LLC. It was heard by the Western District of Texas U.S. District Court. The case number is No. 1:17-cv-00365.