The latest lawsuit involving music publishers is a significant one: a copyright infringement action (PDF) targeted at American ISP Cox Communications, with BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music the plaintiffs.

The key allegation: despite “tens of thousands” of infringement notifications from the publishers, Cox has refused to “suspend, terminate, or otherwise penalize subscriber accounts that repeatedly commit copyright infringement through its network in any meaningful numbers”.

The publishers suggest that Cox is more interested in protecting the “large revenue stream” that it receives in monthly broadband subscriptions from customers accused of piracy.

The lawsuit claims that the ISP is “liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement” due to its knowledge of “specific repeated infringements by identified subscribers” as well as its “material contribution, participation, and enablement and profiting from such infringement”.

You can see why this is a case with much wider ramifications than simply these two publishers against this particular ISP. And it’s given extra spice by the involvement of copyright protection firm Rightscorp – recently in the news for a potential court case about automated telephone calls in which it will be the defendant – as well as the ongoing rollout of a “six strikes” notifications system among large US ISPs.

As Ars Technica points out, going to court is a risky approach for rightsholders: win, and the rewards (in damages and leverage over other ISPs alike) are high. Lose, and it’s the ISPs who’ll have the leverage.

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