$1 billion piracy ruling could force ISPs to disconnect more Internet users

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A billion-dollar judgment in a piracy lawsuit involving a major Internet service provider could force ISPs to terminate more customer accounts and “punish the innocent and guilty alike,” advocacy groups have warned. Urging an appeals court to overturn the ruling, the groups wrote that “upholding this verdict would result in innocent and vulnerable users losing essential Internet access.”

These concerns were raised in a court filing last week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center For Democracy and Technology, the American Library Association, the Association of College And Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, and Public Knowledge. The groups’ filing was made to the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in a case seeking to overturn a ruling in a different case launched by record labels against Cox Communications.

“In going after Internet service providers for the actions of just a few of their users, Sony Music, other major record labels, and music publishing companies have found a way to cut people off of the Internet based on mere accusations of copyright infringement,” the EFF wrote in a blog post announcing the filing. “When these music companies sued Cox Communications, an ISP, the court got the law wrong. It effectively decided that the only way for an ISP to avoid being liable for infringement by its users is to terminate a household or business’s account after a small number of accusations—perhaps only two. The court also allowed a damages formula that can lead to nearly unlimited damages, with no relationship to any actual harm suffered. If not overturned, this decision will lead to an untold number of people losing vital Internet access as ISPs start to cut off more and more customers to avoid massive damages.”

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