Monday, April 3, 2017

BMG settles with US net firm RCN | UNLIMITED | CMU


BMG has reached an out-of-court agreement with US internet service provider RCN in another legal dispute that could have tested the safe harbours of American copyright law, and the obligations of net firms to deal with repeat infringers among their customer bases.

RCN went legal last year in the wake of BMG’s landmark win against Cox Communications, the ISP that was deemed liable for the copyright infringement of its customers – despite the safe harbour – because it was shown to have only paid lip service to its own anti-piracy policies, deliberately turning a blind eye to repeat infringers on its network so as not to lose their custom.

RCN asked the court for a declaratory judgment – so a judicial clarification of the law – to confirm its liabilities over any infringement committed by its users. Basically the ISP wanted a judge to confirm it had safe harbour protection and couldn’t be sued by BMG, which had seemingly been sending increasingly stern letters to the internet company, in part via its anti-piracy agent RightsCorp, about repeat infringers on its network.

BMG argued that RCN’s case should be dismissed, because it hadn’t actually made a legal claim against the ISP, so there wasn’t currently a formal dispute. It also argued that the issue in Cox wasn’t whether or not ISPs get safe harbour protection – they do – but whether the net company was fulfilling its obligations under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act in order to qualify for protection. Doing that for any individual ISP would require a full trial rather than a simple declaratory judgment.

Both sides bounced back claims and counterclaims in the latter months of last year, but behind the scenes negotiations were also ongoing to reach a settlement. And last month they wrote to the judge overseeing the case to say that they had “reached an agreement in principle to settle this matter without court intervention and are in the process of executing the same. We expect a dismissal with prejudice of this matter to be filed shortly”.

According to Torrentfreak, that dismissal with prejudice – the latter bit preventing the case from being re-filed in the future – came last week. Terms of the settlement have not been revealed, so we don’t know if RCN have agreed to ramp up their anti-piracy measures as a result of the arrangement.

Certainly, even though Cox continues to appeal the ruling in its dispute with BMG, the precedent set at first instance – and subsequent judicial comments during a squabble over legal costs – might make American ISPs nervous of going to battle in the courts with music rights owners just now.


No comments: