A trio of lawsuits filed by Voltage Pictures and other copyright owners against Internet service providers for refusing customers who repeatedly illegally copy their movies have been settled.
Less than a month after the indictment, the manufacturing companies behind Dallas Buyers Club I feel beautiful and Colossal moved to dismiss their cases, according to court documents filed on Friday. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
Copyright is the weapon of choice for copyright owners who are increasingly turning to court over the piracy of their films. Serial litigant Voltage Pictures has sued piracy sites, VPN companies and even individual downloaders. In September, the company turned its attention to Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Comcast, accusing them of turning a blind eye to customers who illegally distribute and download movies. It requested a court order to force Internet service providers to adopt policies that provide for the termination of repeat offenders’ accounts and to block certain piracy websites.
The producers claimed that the ISPs knowingly contributed to copyright infringements by their customers.
“Verizon has not terminated customer accounts even when it received information about a large number of repeated breaches of those customer accounts,” the complaint reads. “Verizon Communications Inc. for example, has allowed hundreds of breaches on certain accounts, despite receiving at least as many infringement notices related to those accounts. And Verizon users have reported receiving multiple breach notifications from Verizon without their accounts being terminated.”
The lawsuits alleged a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which criminalizes services designed to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. It provides liability protection for service providers, but there are conditions attached. By law, ISPs must initiate repeat offenders.
Voltage argued that the defendants have no safe harbor because they do not enforce a policy that mandates terminating the accounts of customers who repeatedly receive notices of copyright infringement.
Under AT&T’s policy, the receipt of multiple copyright warnings by a subscriber is just one factor used by the company to determine whether to terminate the services, according to the lawsuit. Comcast says under its policy it will fire up repeat violators, but only counts the number of violations a customer receives in a single month rather than counting the total number of violations. Verizon’s policy makes it too hard for manufacturing companies to notify about copyright infringements, according to the lawsuit, and does nothing about piracy, even if it’s aware.
Judgments in similar lawsuits by rightholders who have gone to court have proven expensive for Internet service providers. In 2019, Cox Communications was hit by a $1 billion judgment won by 53 music publishers who accused the company of taking advantage of repeat offenders. The jury awarded nearly $10,000 in damages for more than 10,000 works infringed in that appealed case.
Lawyers representing the production labels at Dovel & Luner and Culpepper IP, which filed the three lawsuits, declined to comment.
Verizon, AT&T and Comcast did not immediately respond to requests for comment.