Verizon Must Disconnect Pirates and Block Pirate Sites, New Lawsuit Requests *TorrentFreak
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After filing a multi-million dollar copyright lawsuit against AT&T, a coalition of filmmakers has now sued Verizon. The claims are broadly similar – the ISP turned a blind eye to the hack, failed to disconnect repeat offenders, and lost its safe harbor of liability. In addition to millions in damages, the plaintiffs demand user disconnections and blockages of pirate sites.
Efforts to hold Internet service providers in the United States accountable for the hacking activities of their subscribers are gaining momentum.
In 2019, Cox Communications was ordered to pay $1 billion in damages to record labels. The decision is being appealed by Cox, but it has paved the way for similar lawsuits, including a new complaint reported yesterday again targeting AT&T.
Filed in Texas by filmmaker Voltage Pictures and several affiliates, together behind films such as “After We Collided”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Room 203” and “The Bird Catcher”, the lawsuit lambastes AT&T for not making it enough to prevent subscribers from engaging in movie piracy.
A broadly similar new lawsuit filed against Verizon Communications and Cellco Partnership follows a similar pattern.
Verizon hit with copyright lawsuit
The premise of the lawsuit is that Verizon “can easily take action against online piracy” by disconnecting customers who repeatedly use its services to download and share movies. The company doesn’t even have to find these hackers on its own because the plaintiffs have provided infringement notices with all the information it needs.
The reason Verizon failed to act, the complaint notes, is that Verizon makes between $400 and $1,000 in additional profit per “pirate” account. But that’s not allowed by law, the plaintiffs say, because when Verizon is notified of a repeat violation but fails to disconnect the associated accounts, it can be held liable for hacking customers.
Hundreds of thousands of offenses
According to the plaintiffs, IP addresses assigned to Verizon/Cellco Partnership were being monitored by anti-piracy tracking firm Maverickeye uploading and sharing pirated copies of their movies. Over the past three years, “hundreds of thousands” of these infringements have been logged and more than 90,000 corresponding infringement notices have been sent to the ISP.
On this basis, plaintiffs believe that Verizon/Cellco deliberately ignored these violations because neither took meaningful action to prevent ongoing violations by their customers. In some cases, infringement notices were not even forwarded to subscribers allegedly in violation, the complainants add.
The complaint highlights several specific IP addresses assigned to Verizon customers, for which plaintiffs have sent high volumes of copyright infringement complaints. One IP address appeared 800 times in infringement notices, another 700 times, with three others identified 600, 500 and 400 times.
In these cases and others like them, it is alleged that Verizon had the option of suspending customer accounts but failed to do so.
Repeat Offenders and the DMCA
When Congress passed the DMCA in 1998 (not 1988, as this lawsuit claims), service providers received “safe harbor” protections if they adopted and reasonably enforced policies to terminate infringers. repeat offenders “in appropriate circumstances”.
Verizon publishes its policy here, but according to the complaint, Verizon’s implementation of the policy imposes an unfair burden on rights holders.
The plaintiffs say BitTorrent-type violations must be reported via “conduct notice forms,” but Verizon prohibits these from being completed using automated processes. Verizon operates the “Verizon Anti-Piracy Cooperation” program, but plaintiffs say the contract contains “onerous” terms.
These include an agreement not to sue Verizon for copyright infringement as well as a $75 per hour processing fee for IP address lookups.
In any event, the lawsuit claims Verizon failed to terminate customer accounts, even when it received multiple complaints against specific accounts. As a result, he lost his safe haven protections under the DMCA.
Several Types of Copyright Infringement
Because of Verizon/Cellco Partnership’s alleged inaction, plaintiffs assert that defendants are liable for contributory and consequential copyright infringement. These claims alone could cost several million dollars in damages.
Due to the removal or alteration of Complainants’ Copyright Management Information (CMI) in video files distributed via BitTorrent by Verizon customers, the ISP is also liable for contributory and consequential violations under 17 USCS §1202(a)(b), the complaint adds.
The plaintiffs are seeking actual or statutory damages and an order requiring Verizon to implement a repeat offender policy that terminates repeat offenders’ accounts.
In common with the lawsuit plaintiffs have just filed against AT&T, the complaint seeks an order that compels Verizon to block access to pirate sites listed in the USTR’s Notorious Foreign Markets report. These include YTS, The Pirate Bay, RARBG and 1337x.
A copy of the complaint, filed by Voltage Holdings et al. in District Court for the Southern District of New York, can be found here (pdf)