Cox Customers Convince Court To Remove Them From Piracy Lawsuit

We recently told you about a number of Cox broadband subscribers who were caught up in a piracy lawsuit filed against the cable company by music publishing giant BMG Rights Management. These customers said their personal information should not be involved in this legal dispute because they had nothing to do with the alleged content theft. Last week, the judge in the case sided with some Cox subscribers while saying that others hadn’t done enough to separate themselves from the dispute.

In the lawsuit, BMG is accusing Cox of failing to live up to its obligations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

ISPs are supposed to do what they can to stop repeat copyright infringers from continuing to use their networks, but BMG said the cable company “has continued to permit its repeat infringer subscribers to use the Cox network to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence.”

To make its case, BMG identified 15,000 IP addresses of what it claimed were the most egregious offenders, and then received a court order granting access to information on the top 250 of those addresses.

However, as we told you in June, several Cox customers objected to their inclusion in the lawsuit. Some said they should not be involved because they were not even Cox customers at the time of the alleged piracy, while others argued that they only used their Internet connections for things like e-mail and Facebook and wouldn’t even know how to pirate movies.

In a July 1 order [PDF], the judge agreed to drop seven customers who were able to furnish proof that they were not Cox customers — or that the IP address in question hadn’t been tied to their account — during the time involved in the lawsuit.

The news wasn’t as good for those Cox customers whose only argument was that they weren’t pirates and therefore shouldn’t be involved in the lawsuit.

“The mere denial of any infringing activity is an insufficient reason to justify quashing the subpoena,” writes the judge, noting that any privacy concerns raised by the Cox customers are addressed by a protective order that limits who has access to the subpoenaed information.

Even though the subscribers are not defendants in the lawsuit, some had raised concerns that the suit against Cox was intended to reveal the identities of alleged pirates so that BMG could then file complaints against them.

In his order, the judge notes that the “subscriber information produced in this action is to be used solely for the purposes of litigating the claims… between BMG/Round Hill and Cox and will not be used… to solicit payments directly from Cox customers.”