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Cox Communications Off The Hook For $1 Billion Record Label Judgment

As reported by The Verge, in the ongoing battle between record labels and internet service providers (ISPs) over music piracy, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia has ruled that Cox Communications does not have to pay $1 billion in damages to record labels. Instead, the court has mandated a new trial in a federal district court to determine what amount would be appropriate. This decision overturns a 2019 US district court jury's ruling that favored the record labels, which included Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and EMI. The companies had accused Cox of not addressing over 10,000 copyright infringement notices and failing to take action against music pirates, such as cutting off their broadband access.

However, the circuit court reversed the damages, stating that Cox "did not profit from its subscribers' acts of infringement," which is a legal requirement for part of the liability. This isn't the first time that Cox Communications has appealed the $1 billion judgment, but it's the first time the company has been successful. Previously, Cox had asked a federal court in Virginia to lower the damages or grant it a new trial, but the court denied its request. Cox then filed a motion with a district court in Colorado, claiming that Sony had fabricated evidence to obtain a favorable verdict.

However, the evidence in question was not mentioned in Tuesday's circuit court opinion. It was used in another music copyright infringement case against another ISP, Charter, and Cox aimed to prove that this evidence was created years after the music companies claimed it was illegally downloaded over Cox's network.

Both music companies and ISPs have struggled to prevent repeat piracy, leading both parties to end their Copyright Alert System partnership (known as the "six strikes" rule) in 2017 after it failed to significantly reduce illegal music and video downloads. While the system was successful at getting internet users who infrequently pirated copyrighted material, it didn't deter those who were consistent pirates.

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