Music Industry Battles Internet Service Provider (ISP) Over Copyright Infringement


A Texas internet service provider (“ISP”) has taken to federal court to complain about the increased pressure from the music industry to monitor copyright infringement.  In a federal filing, Texas ISP Grande Communications (“Grande”) has complained to federal court that record companies from the music industry have attempted to increasingly shift the burden of policing copyright infringement of their copyrighted works by abusing the use of legal takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).

ISP Under Attack By Music Industry Claiming Millions of Infringements

Grande, a high-speed Internet provider, has claimed that, as the main provider of internet to several university campuses in Texas, it has come increasingly under fire and pressure from at least eighteen different music companies since April 2017.  Litigants against Grande include, among others, Universal, Capitol, Warner, and Song; who have all accused Grande of allowing users to “engage in more than one million infringements of copyrighted works” due to alleged abuse by students through the use of bit-torrent services.

The music industry, on the other hand, complains that Grande Communications has turned a blind eye to repeated piracy of copyrighted works despite consistent notification of such illegal activity from record companies.  In their response, the music industry argues that Grande has failed to “take any meaningful action” to curb infringement of the copyrighted works.

Grande Claims Music Industry Is Failing to Properly Police Copyrights

In its counter-claim, Grande argues that the industry is shifting its own burden of policing its copyrighted works to Grande.  Grande argues that it lacks the resources to effectively respond to or even investigate all of the infringement claims and also argues that many of the allegations of copyright infringement are either unsubstantiated or impossible to verify.

Moreover, Grande claims that the record industry is further shifting its burden by paying third parties to bully Grande into compliance by having these third parties file hundreds of thousands of complaints a year, making the investigations a burden that no company could possibly fulfill.  Thus, Grande complains that, as a result, it is put in the impossible burden of terminating accounts based on unverifiable allegations or having to continually face complaints of secondary liability for copyright infringement.

Could The Music Industry Is Bullying ISPs As An Alternative To Properly Policing Copyrights?

As a result of an enormous volume of DMCA claims Grande must process, the music industry can then suggest that Grande is not responding to the takedown requests in a timely fashion. The music industry argues that Grande is not subject to any safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.  Specifically, the music industry argues that Grande may not avail itself of any of the safe harbor provisions because it is not reasonably implementing policies that will sufficiently terminate or punish repeat copyright infringers.

As an example of Grande’s noncompliance, the music industry alleges that Grande refuses to avail itself of available technology that would allow it to identify infringers through their IP address, port numbers, and activity timestamps. Grande, on the other hand, denies that the technology that the music industry is relying on even properly identifies infringement.   Particularly, Grande argues that the technology only detects when a copyrighted file becomes accessible, not when the work was originally illegally copied or whether the copy was illegally reproduced.

Grande’s Stand Against Blindly Shutting Down Clients for DMCA Claims Makes It An Easy Target

Because many ISPs have complied with similar requests from the music industry to send warnings, takedown requests, and other legal notices to users that were potentially partaking in copyright infringement, it is understandable why Grande has become a unique target.  Because ISPs have often complied with such requests by blocking, throttling, or simply terminating the accounts of the alleged offenders, Grande is unique in its denial.  As such, it is important for copyright attorneys and the music industry alike to follow this case as it unfolds in the federal court system.

For more information on this topic, please visit our Copyright Infringement service page, which is part of our Software & Copyrights Practice.

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