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Sony Music Slams Cox Communications' Challenge to $1B Piracy Verdict

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"Cox conduct was not that of a single, rogue employee. It was endemic to the culture of a company that systematically helped infringers, openly mocked copyright laws, and lied to copyright owners."

Sony Music Entertainment says Cox Communications deserves to pay the $1 billion jury verdict levied against it in December for facilitating a “massive scale” piracy scheme, according to a new court motion filed Friday. The motion was lodged in response to Cox’s request on Jan. 31 asking a judge to either grant it a new trial or overturn the verdict, calling it “completely divorced from the trial evidence” and saying it “constitutes a miscarriage of justice.”

“For years, Cox knowingly facilitated piracy of [Sony Music’s] copyrighted works on the massive scale,” reads Sony’s recent court filing motion. “Cox conduct was not that of a single, rogue employee. It was endemic to the culture of a company that systematically helped infringers, openly mocked copyright laws, and lied to copyright owners about owners about its allegedly ‘gold standard’ policies.”

Sony Music attorneys argue in court papers that Cox purposely allowed the piracy to continue “to maximize its billions of dollars in profits -- with utter disregard for the laws and copyright owners.”

A jury levied the $1 billion dollar verdict against Cox on Dec. 19 after a 12-day trial in U.S. District Court in Virginia. Cox was defending itself in court after labels and their publishing entities brought a lawsuit against the company 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.

The verdict found that Cox was liable for the piracy infringement of more than 10,000 musical works.

In Sony Music’s Friday motion -- filed by the firm Oppenheim + Zebrak, the law firm representing the music industry in the case -- attorneys argue that, contrary to Cox’s assertions, it wasn’t a “runaway jury” that made the decision in this case. Instead, they argue it was a jury that took copious notes throughout the trial, understood the “massive scope of infringement,” and delivered the substantial monetary award to “deter future wrongful conduct.”

They further argue that not only did they demonstrate at trial that Cox slashed the team that was designed to address infringement, ignored notices, blacklisted complainants and limited daily suspensions, but that they prioritized profits over limiting infringements. While the monetary award seems large, Sony Music’s legal team argues that the verdict is “constitutionally sound” based on the number of infringing works.

“Cox received substantial subscription revenues it would not have otherwise obtained” and provided a “safe haven” for widespread infringement, according to Sony Music’s motion, which also argues that the verdict amount is justifiable when looking at Cox’s total profits, with the company earning $8.3 billion in net profits in one year.

A judge will hear oral arguments on this issue from both Sony and Cox on March 26.


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