Copyright Infringement

Warner Music Group Leads Way In $1.6BN Music Piracy Lawsuit against Altice USA

Altice USA, a prominent internet service provider, faces a new lawsuit from music rightsholders alleging its complicity in widespread music piracy through its services.

Copyright Lawsuit Filed by WMG and Sony Against Altice

In a recent development, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have filed a similar lawsuit in the US District Court against Altice, echoing a previous $1-billion lawsuit from major music rightsholders such as BMG and Universal Music Group.

This lawsuit comes after a judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied Altice’s motion to dismiss the initial case earlier this year, signaling a continued legal battle.

Altice Accused of Extensive Music Piracy via BitTorrent

The recent complaint accuses Altice of knowingly enabling extensive copyright infringement through its service, citing the alleged infringement of thousands of songs and compositions by Altice’s subscribers from 2020 to 2023, using the BitTorrent protocol.

The lawsuit underscores potential damages exceeding $1.6 billion, referencing the maximum statutory fine of $150,000 per alleged copyright violation. Notably, it lists thousands of sound recordings and compositions as examples, emphasizing that this list is not exhaustive.

The complaint asserts that despite receiving numerous infringement notices and having a legal obligation to address such activities, Altice continued providing high-speed internet services to known repeat infringers, facilitating copyright breaches without repercussion.

Lawsuit Served by 50+ Music Publishers and Record Labels

As the fourth-largest ISP in the US, Altice serves almost 5 million subscribers across 21 states under its Optimum brand. The lawsuit involves over 50 record labels and music publishers, including Warner-owned labels like Atlantic Records, Elektra and Bad Boy Records, and Sony-owned labels Arista and Ultra Records.

The core argument alleges Altice’s willful contribution to subscriber infringement, emphasizing its failure to take reasonable measures to prevent copyright violations, even after being notified about specific instances of repeat infringement.

No Safe Harbor due to Repeat Copyright Infringement

Despite provisions in US copyright law offering safe harbor to ISPs cooperating with rights holders, the complaint contends that Altice neglected to act against repeat infringers on its network, positioning its service as a facilitator for infringement.

This lawsuit mirrors a trend where music rights holders challenge ISPs’ alleged indifference to music piracy on their networks, reminiscent of cases involving Cox Communications and Charter Communications in recent years. These cases highlight a growing legal battleground between music rights holders and internet service providers, addressing alleged negligence in curbing copyright infringement.

The plaintiffs, represented by the law firm of Oppenheim + Zebrak LLP and the Texas-based Davis Firm, are pursuing this case against Altice, amplifying the ongoing struggle to address digital piracy within the realm of internet service provision.

Music Business Worldwide – December 12, 2023 – Daniel Tencer

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