Charter Communications has agreed to settle piracy lawsuits brought by major record labels, which accused the cable Internet provider of failing to cancel the accounts of subscribers who illegally download copyrighted songs.
Sony, Universal, Warner and their various subsidiaries sued Charter in U.S. District Court in Colorado in March 2019 in a lawsuit alleging the ISP helps subscribers pirate music by selling bundles with faster Internet speeds high They filed another lawsuit against Charter in the same court in August 2021.
Both cases were resolved. The record labels and Charter informed the court of their settlements on August 2 in filings that read: “The parties notify the Court that they have settled the above-mentioned action.” Following the settlements, the court vacated the pending trials and asked the parties to file dismissal papers within 28 days.
Charter subsidiary Bright House Networks also settled a similar lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida this week. The record labels’ case in Florida was settled a day before a scheduled trial, as TorrentFreak reported on August 2. The case was dismissed with prejudice after the settlement.
No details of any of the settlements were given in the documents that have been served on the courts. A three-week jury trial in one of the Colorado cases was scheduled to begin in June 2023, but is no longer required.
The question for Internet users is whether the agreements mean Charter will be more aggressive in terminating subscribers who illegally download copyrighted material. Charter declined to comment when Ars Technica asked if it agreed to increase account terminations for subscribers accused of hacking. Ars Technica also reached out to all three major labels and will update this article if they provide information on the settlements.
Cox’s $1 billion verdict may force ISPs to cut subscribers
Even if the agreements do not have any specific provisions regarding the cancellation of subscribers, it is likely that Charter will have to pay the record labels to settle the claims. That could make the nation’s second-largest ISP more likely to terminate subscribers accused of hacking to avoid future lawsuits.
A jury ruled in December 2019 that Cox must pay $1 billion in damages to major record labels in a case filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. This decision raised alarms from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries and the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.
Those groups warned in a June 2021 court filing that the verdict, if not overturned, “will force ISPs to terminate more subscribers with less justification or risk of liability.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in March 2022 and has not yet issued a decision.
Charter’s motion to dismiss is denied
In Colorado court, the record labels’ complaint said that Charter “has knowingly contributed to the massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers and has profited substantially from it. Charter has insisted on doing nothing, all and receiving thousands of notices detailing the illegal activity of its subscribers, despite its clear legal obligation to address the widespread and illegal downloading of copyrighted works on its Internet services, and despite having previously been sued by the plaintiffs for similar conduct.”
Charter argued in a motion to dismiss the case that “the failure to terminate a customer’s Internet access based solely on unverified (and unverifiable) notices alleging prior violations does not demonstrate the requisite intent to ‘an ISP to encourage infringement’. Charter said it has a “policy of not terminating customer accounts based solely on receipt of notices containing unverifiable allegations of infringement.”
Charter also wrote that “plaintiffs do not (and cannot) allege that termination restricts access to infringing content. It is common sense that terminating a customer’s Internet connection does not prevent a customer from finding another source of Internet access, nor does it affect the availability of the allegedly infringing content hosted over peer-to-peer networks or programs. Charter has no more ability to block access to peer-to-peer networks than the electric company d “a subscriber”. Charter’s motion to dismiss the case was denied, and the company ultimately chose not to go to trial.
In Florida, the judge dismissed the record companies’ claim for vicarious liability, but the industry’s complaint also sought damages for copyright infringement.
Disclosure: The Advance/Newhouse Partnership, which owns 12.4% of Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which owns Ars Technica and WIRED.
This story originally appeared on Ars Technique.