In Sony Music Entertainment v. Cox Communications, Inc., a major internet service provider was found liable for copyright infringement because it failed to terminate the accounts of subscribers who had received multiple copyright infringement notices. The jury returned an historic statutory damage award of $1 billion. On behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Samuelson Clinic co-authored an amicus brief explaining the potential consequences for internet users of the district court’s relaxed standard for secondary liability and minimal scrutiny of the damage award.
Because many internet users share broadband subscriptions and many users have access to only one broadband provider, the lower court’s decision could lead to countless innocent users losing all access to the internet as ISPs seek to avoid crushing liability by terminating broadband subscriptions without meaningful investigation into the validity of infringement notices or the individual responsible for the infringement. Particularly in the wake of a pandemic that shifted much of civic life online, loss of broadband internet access also means loss of access to education, health services, and economic opportunity. In view of those consequences, the brief urges the reviewing court to reject the district court’s unwarranted extension of theories of secondary liability and a damage award so minimally justified as to offend due process.