Legal and Management

Cox Communications Challenges $1B Piracy Verdict as a 'Miscarriage of Justice'

Cox Communications
Courtesy Photo

    

The cable giant is asking the court to overturn the judgment or grant a new trial.

Cox Communications is asking a Virginia judge to toss out the record-setting $1 billion fine it was assessed in December after being found liable in a piracy case brought by Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI. The company is aggressively pursuing two avenues to wipe out the verdict, asking the judge to either overturn it as a matter a law or to grant them a new trial. The verdict, it says, is “a miscarriage of justice” that is “shockingly excessive and unlawfully punitive.”

The labels and their publishing entities brought their lawsuit against Cox in July 2018, when they accused the cable and internet service provider of turning a blind eye to pirates on its network. They alleged that Cox “deliberately refused to take reasonable measures” to combat copyright infringers, even after the company became aware of specific acts of infringement by its customers.

After a lengthy trial, Cox was found liable for the piracy infringement of more than 10,000 musical works by a U.S. District Court jury in Virginia on Dec. 19. The jury awarded $1 billion in statutory damages to the plaintiffs.

 

Cox, which says the award appears to be the largest in history for statutory copyright damages, contends that the magnitude of the award is not only shocking but “wholly disproportionate to the offense.”  The combination of the two disparate factors violated the company’s due process rights, the company's legal team argues.

“The $1 billion verdict is completely divorced from the trial evidence and constitutes a miscarriage of justice,” states the Cox filing, which was entered on Friday (Jan. 31).

Cox's legal team goes on to blame attorneys for the the labels and publishers for encouraging the jury to “punish” a “deep-pocketed” defendant. It argues that if a verdict is so “completely divorced” from the trial evidence that it constitutes a miscarriage of justice, the judge has the power to set it aside or grant them a new trial. The legal team for Cox is asking the judge to either reduce the damages to “an amount supported by the trial evidence” or to vacate the judgment entirely and order a new trial on damages.

Cox lawyers pointed to other large statutory copyright rulings, arguing that unlike those cases, the company was not accused of exploiting the copyrighted works through direct infringement. They also highlighted jury awards for secondary infringers like themselves, noting those types of awards are much smaller and that the largest award against a statutory infringer prior to this appears have been $31.68 million.

 

“Moreover, even considered on a per work basis, this award was excessive,” reads Cox’s court papers. “Awards of damages approaching $100,000 per work are all but unheard of in cases involving more than a handful of works -- until this one.”

Oral arguments on Cox’s request will be held on March 26.