Record Labels File Copyright Lawsuit Against Internet Provider RCN

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Seventeen record labels have joined together to sue internet service provider RCN Corporation alleging the company facilitated, allowed and profited from widespread copyright infringement of music on its platform. 

Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group along with 14 other record companies filed a federal lawsuit Aug. 27 in New Jersey against RCN accusing it of enabling massive copyright infringement of sound recordings and reaping “substantial profits” from the infringement. The information regarding the infringements was collected from notices sent by Rightscorp Inc., which notified RCN of specific instances of “first-time and repeat copyright infringement by RNC’s account holders,” according to the complaint. Rightscorp technology is able to identify actual copyright infringements on the internet by IP address, port number, time and date, the lawsuit states. 

“This is a case about a leading internet service provider knowingly enabling its customers’ massive online infringement of sound recordings,” reads the first line of the 28 page lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs contend that Rightscorp evidence has already been successfully used against another internet service provider, Cox Communications, in a similar but unrelated lawsuit. Many of these same record companies have also filed suit against Grande Communications Network LLC -- a sister company of RCN -- in Texas federal district court for secondary copyright infringement. 

In this current lawsuit, the labels claim RCN could have easily stopped the customers from illegal infringement by terminating their accounts, but instead took no “meaningful action to curb this ongoing theft.” The lawsuit states that RCN earned a direct financial benefit and that failure of RCN to police their clients' internet usage was also a draw to encourage new customers to sign up for service, knowing they could “engage in online infringement.”

“Defendants have received more than five million notices that RCN’s customers were using RCN’s internet services to engage in infringement of copyrighted works including tens of thousands of blatant infringements by repeat infringers,” according to the complaint. 

The lawsuit states the infringement occurred through BitTorrent networks that “allows large files, such as entire catalogs of recordings, to be transferred quickly and efficiently, all for free and without authorization from the owner of that content.” Songs shared include Alicia Keys' “Cage Bird,” Backstreet Boys' “I Want It That Way,” The Police's “Every Breath You Take” and The Weeknd’s “Prisoner.” 

“For many of RCN’s subscribers, the ability to use the RCN’s network to download music and other copyright content -- including unauthorized content -- as efficiently as possible is a primary motivation for subscribing to RCN’s service,” states the lawsuit. 

The labels are seeking up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringed work. RNC Corp. did not responded to Billboard’s request for comment. 


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