Court Holds Vicarious Copyright Liability Claim Can Move Forward Against Major ISP

Written by Marc E. Mayer, Leo M. Lichtman, and Orly Ravid

Last week, the music industry enjoyed a high profile victory in its efforts to combat music piracy allegedly facilitated by Internet service providers (ISPs), including cable and telecommunications companies that provide Internet access to members of the public.  In Warner Records Inc. et al. v. Charter Comm’ns, Inc., No. 1:19-cv-00874, Judge R. Brook Jackson in the U.S. District Court of Colorado adopted a Magistrate’s Judge’s ruling from October 2019 allowing claims of vicarious copyright infringement against Charter Communications, one of this country’s largest ISPs, to proceed beyond the pleading stage.

The Charter Communications lawsuit was initiated last year by Warner Records and a group of several dozen record companies and music publishers, who collectively have produced or control the rights to millions of sound recordings and musical compositions.  In their Complaint, the plaintiffs allege that Charter is contributorily and vicariously liable for the infringement of thousands of copyrighted works that were unlawfully reproduced and distributed by its subscribers via peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs such as BitTorrent.  According to the Complaint, Charter has known for years that subscribers were using its network to pirate music—including particular customers that were repeatedly infringing the plaintiffs’ copyrights—by virtue of the thousands of infringement notices that were sent to Charter detailing specific instances of infringement on its network.  The plaintiffs claim that despite those notices, Charter nonetheless failed to take appropriate action to curb the infringement in order to avoid the loss of subscriber revenue. Continue reading “Court Holds Vicarious Copyright Liability Claim Can Move Forward Against Major ISP”

Pirates Find New Shelter

Demand for Pirated Content Surges as the Public Stays Home

Written by Eleanor M. Lackman

At a time where theaters are shut down and productions are on hold, the entertainment industry is facing another challenge: the sudden surge in demand for pirated audiovisual and game content.  According to anti-piracy firm MUSO, the number of people illegally streaming the movie Contagion increased by over 5600%.  As lockdowns and stay-home orders keep people at home in an increasing number of countries, online searches for local pirate sites have ballooned, even despite studios’ in-home release of films that were slated to premiere this month in theaters.

Apparently taking advantage of the situation, well-known piracy app Popcorn Time, which launched in 2015 and was quickly shut down thereafter, has just reemerged in a new version.  In its own words, Popcorn Time announced in a tweet on Tuesday: “Love in the Time of Corona Version 0.4 [sic] is out!” Popcorn Time offers an easy-to-use system that uses BitTorrent to stream movies and television shows without needing to download them.  This time, the instructions for the app include a suggestion for users to use VPNs to avoid detection by users’ ISPs, which may be held responsible for repeated acts of infringement by their users if the ISP fails to take appropriate steps to curtail it.  See, e.g., BMG Rights Management (US) LLC v. Cox Communications, Inc., 881 F.3d 293 (4th Cir. 2018). Continue reading “Pirates Find New Shelter”