Major Labels Beat Allegations of Bogus Takedown Notices

Major Labels Beat Allegations of Bogus Takedown Notices

A federal judge ruled Friday (April 29) that the major record labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group — and an anti-piracy group called Rightscorp didn’t violate any laws when they sent millions of takedown emails to internet service provider RCN.

RCN claimed the takedowns were “unsupported” and amounted to an “unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practice.” The labels and Rightscorp argued back that RCN’s allegation was an attempt to distract from the “rampant copyright infringement occurring on its network.”

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp sided decisively with the labels, saying there was no evidence that RCN had suffered any actual legal harms from the notices. The judge said it’s reasonable for RCN to wish Rightscorp had behaved differently, but that the anti-piracy group wasn’t legally required to do so.

“Their desire for companies like Rightscorp to tailor infringement notifications in certain ways to save internet providers money is understandable but, as it stands, no such requirement is obligated by law,” Judge Shipp wrote. “Any costs derived from internet providers’ preferences are theirs to bear alone.”

The ruling came in a broader lawsuit filed by UMG, SME and WMG that claims RCN turned a blind eye to piracy on its network, allegedly putting the ISP on the hook for millions in damages. It’s one of several similar cases filed by the labels against ISPs in courts around the country; in one of them, the labels already won a $1 billion verdict against Cox Communications.

Facing those allegations, RCN fired back with accusations of its own. It claimed that Rightscorp had violated unfair competition laws by using “sham” detection methods to flood the company with questionable takedown notices. It said the notices were aimed more at “gaining leverage” than actually pursuing real infringers.

“Instead of actually policing their copyrights … defendants seek to create an environment in which ISPs, including RCN, have no choice but to indiscriminately terminate the internet access of every customer accused of copyright infringement, or face the wrath of the record labels and the RIAA,” the company wrote.

But on Friday, Judge Shipp said RCN’s real gripe appeared to be with Congress and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires rights holders to submit a notice for each new infringement. How exactly those notices are formatted or submitted is not stipulated by the DMCA, the judge wrote.

“Even if Rightscorp could have saved internet providers ‘time and effort’ by following [RCN]’s DMCA policy, any additional costs to internet providers are based on how they chose to design their system,” the judge wrote. “At bottom, Internet Providers take issue with Congress’s statutory regime.”

Attorneys for both sides did not immediately return requests for comment on Friday.

Major Labels Beat Allegations of Bogus Takedown Notices A federal judge ruled Friday (April 29) that the major record labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group — and an anti-piracy group called Rightscorp didn’t violate any laws when they sent millions of takedown emails to internet service provider RCN. RCN claimed…