Music companies hit internet service operator Altice USA with $1bn copyright infringement lawsuit

Music companies hit internet service operator Altice USA with bn copyright infringement lawsuit

Internet service operator Altice, which owns the Optimum broadband and cable brand, has become the latest US IP to be hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit alleging multiple incidents of music piracy through its services.

Internet provider Altice USA, which claims to be one of the “largest connectivity providers in the US”, has more than 5 million customers in 21 US states.

The lawsuit was filed in Texas on Wednesday (December 14) by a number of rights holders, including BMG, as well as Universal Music, Capitol Records and Concord Music Group.

They are suing Optimum’s owner over “millions” of alleged infringements of “thousands” of their songs.

The lawsuit alleges that “by providing high-speed Internet services, Altice knowingly contributed to and earned substantial profits from copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers”.

It adds: “The infringement from which Altice has refrained from, profited from and substantially contributed to Plaintiffs, their recording artists and songwriters, and others whose livelihoods depend on the proper licensing of music and the ability to fairly compensate become for the use of their music and earn a living from their professions.”

The claim, which you can read in full here, centers around the alleged illegal downloading of music via P2P platform BitTorrent by Altice’s customers.

According to the lawsuit, “the online piracy perpetrated via BitTorrent is staggering in nature, speed and scope” and that the “BitTorrent protocol enables a uniquely effective means of facilitating illegal file sharing”.

BMG, UMG and Concord allege that using BitTorrent, Altice’s subscribers “pilfered many thousands of sound recordings and musical compositions protected by copyright and equivalent rights owned by or exclusively licensed to Plaintiffs”.

They further allege that Altice, “received over a million notices of infringement of Plaintiffs’ works by Altice subscribers” and that those notices concerned “nearly 20,000” of Altice’s subscribers.

“Many of these are not just one-time offenders,” the filing adds. “They are chronic and repeat offenders.” Altice allegedly “shut down” after receiving these notices.

“The scale and volume of infringing activity occurring with the Altice services illustrates that, rather than terminating repeat infringers – and losing revenue attributable to those subscribers’ monthly fees – Altice simply looked the other way,” the rights holders say ‘s claim.

It further notes that the law “is clear that a party who knowingly and substantially assists someone who engages in copyright infringement faces liability for that infringement”.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages of up to $150,000 for each of the infringing works. The ‘Exhibit A’ document filed with the claim, which you can see here, contains more than 7,000, meaning damages sought by BMG, UMG and Concord could exceed $1 billion.

This latest case follows several other high-profile cases and settlements addressing infringement by subscribers using the services of Internet providers, including Grand Communications, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks/Charter.

In 2018, BMG settled a long-running copyright infringement case against the third largest ISP in the US, Cox Communications, for a “substantial” amount.

That same year, Universal, Sony and Warner filed a lawsuit against the ISP, accusing them of “knowingly contributing to, and profiting substantially from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers”.

In December 2019, a jury found the firm liable for the infringement of more than 10,000 music copyrights by its users and was ordered to pay the labels more than $99,000 for each of the 10,017 allegedly infringed works – the equivalent of $1 billion in collective damages.

In August, a number of record labels, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, settled a copyright infringement lawsuit against US internet service provider Bright House Networks on the eve of a scheduled trial in a Florida court.

In November, a federal jury in Austin ordered US telecommunications and Internet provider Grande Communications to pay $46.7 million in damages to a group of record companies for infringement.Music business worldwide

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