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Every now and again, a significant lawsuit crosses the horizon as the entertainment industry chooses an Internet Service Provider to target. Last week it became the turn of US ISP Charter Communications – the second-largest cable provider in the States.
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Naked Security reports that last week a court-appointed arbiter ordered Charter to hand over the personal details (known as PII – personally-identifying information) of over 11,000 file-sharers to a group of major record labels headed up by Warner Brothers Records.
Charter doesn’t intend to just hand over the names and addresses of the 11,000, though. ISPs find themselves in between a rock and a hard place in cases like this, whereby being seen to simply comply with a court order is extremely bad for future custom.
In response to the demand, Charter Communications has argued that handing over the data for 11,000 accounts would be “burdensome due to the requirements of privacy law.”
The California Consumer Privacy Act requires the ISP to notify all accused customers giving them the right to respond. Hardly unreasonable.
In the ruling issued by special master Regina M. Rodriguez on 28 April, Rodriguez stated:
“Defendant is ordered to produce information sufficient for Plaintiffs to match the IP addresses contained infringement notices served on Charter with particular subscribers.”
However, she did agree with Charter than the contacting in excess of 11,000 account holders would be a lot of time and effort, both for the company and the courts, when a proportion of them inevitably challenged the ruling.
“While the information may be relevant, the notification of 11,000+ customers, and the potential legal challenges flowing therefrom, would be burdensome to the parties as well as to the courts.”
The compromise suggested is not great news for everybody however, as it was decided that Charter and music labels must get together and decide who to go after. The list was soon whittled down to 638 commercial accounts and 112 residential accounts that had received several copyright infringement notices over the previous period.
Charter also isn’t off the hook as the record labels are charging them with “vicariously liable for subscriber infringement.” and requiring proof that it “implemented adequate processes to address and stop infringement.”
From here, things could get interesting as in 2019, ISP Cox Communications lost a $1 billion damages case, again brought by the record industry, for systematic copyright infringements by subscribers.
Given the success of that legal case, it is possible that the music industry could use the plaintiffs to gather evidence for a much bigger damages case against Charter, or so thinks Torrentfreak – after all the rewards for winning that case, for which a precedent has already been set, would be infinitely higher than snatching a few thousand dollars here and there from home file-sharers.