Innocent Cox Customers Fighting To Prevent Personal Info From Being Turned Over In Piracy Lawsuit

Imagine you get a letter from your Internet service provider giving you some odd news: You’re not being accused of piracy, but there’s a court order demanding that the ISP hand over your information to a copyright holder who thinks you might be a pirate. That’s the case for several Cox customers who have been caught up in a lawsuit between the cable company and a mammoth music publisher.

Back in 2014, BMG Rights Management sued Cox [PDF] in federal court, alleging that the ISP had not done its duty under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to stop repeat offenders from stealing copyrighted music.

“Cox has continued to permit its repeat infringer subscribers to use the Cox network to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence,” reads the complaint.

As part of this lawsuit, BMG identified what it believed were the 15,000 IP addresses that did the most pirating. The company was granted a court order requiring that Cox turn over information about the “Top 250 IP Addresses recorded to have infringed in the six months prior to filing the Complaint.”

And so Cox sent a letter to those customers telling them that “Our records indicate that one of the IP addresses listed is currently assigned to your Cox account,” and giving customers until June 8 to file an objection or show their intent to object.

“Because this matter involves litigation, our Customer Care staff will not be able to assist you with questions you may have. We regret being placed in the position of sending this letter, but want you to have every opportunity to protect your interests. We are not permitted to give you legal advice and encourage you to consult an attorney immediately.”

And many Cox customers replied. A document made public this morning includes letters from multiple subscribers explaining why they believe their information should not be provided to BMG.

“I’m currently serving in the United States Navy at this time,” reads one. “I didn’t have Cox service at that time frame due to me being on military deployment with USS Carl Vinson from August 24, 2104-April 10, 2015. I started my Cox account on April 30, 2015 and was issued that IP address.”

Several customers note that they were not Cox customers until after the lawsuit was filed in Nov. 2014, so they could’t be the account-holder for whom BMG seeks information. A former Cox employee says in her letter that her home IP address does not actually match up with the one listed in the subpoena.

Explains another letter, from an octogenarian in Arizona, “I don’t know why this information is requested… I only use my computer for Facebook, Skype and Gmail. I have mild Alzheimer’s/dementia and feel this was a scam.”

A second 80-year-old says that they had their in-home WiFi network “set to public not knowing that it needed to be secured. Apparently everyone in my neighborhood has had access to my network.”

Similarly, one couple caught up in this mess say they are victims of their own naiveté.

“My husband and I made the enormous mistake of having basically the easiest password someone can have on our wifi,” reads the letter. “We calculated the risk of this to be slim to none and realize we have made a terrible mistake… When the evidence that the plaintiff has Is nothing more than an IP address, it is a certainty that there will be a considerable amount of people that are innocent of wrong-doing and I beg you not to ignore that fact as we are definitely in that category.”

Cox is currently awaiting further instruction from the court on how to handle the information of these customers who filed objections.