A jury in Austin, Texas said that Grande Communications must pay $46.7 million in damages to several recording companies for copyright infringements made by Grande customers.
The recording companies include Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Records and others. Grande is a unit of Astound Broadband.
According to the complaint made by the recording companies, Grande didn’t do enough to prevent customers from pirating copyrighted material.
Broadband providers generally are not liable for copyright infringement by their customers, as long as the providers have systems in place to protect against copyright infringement, including terminating repeat infringers.
According to the plaintiffs, Grande failed to terminate a single repeat infringer, even though the plaintiffs sent more than a million copyright infringement notices to the provider. Grande was found liable for infringement involving over 1400 copyrighted works.
The jury found Grande guilty of “willful” copyright infringement, which carries a penalty of between $750 and $150,000 per work. The jury decided that $33,333 was the appropriate value of damages per work.
In a prepared statement, Mitch Glazier, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said the jury’s decision sends an important message to broadband providers. “Artists, songwriters, rights holders, fans and legitimate services all depend upon a healthy digital music ecosystem that effectively protects creative works online,” he said.
In its defense, Grande argued that it is “merely an internet service provider and never induced or encouraged anyone to infringe the plaintiffs’ copyrights.”
Grande also criticized the Rightscorp system that the plaintiffs used to detect copyright infringement on Grande’s network. According to Grande, the system cannot accurately or reliably identify infringement, and Rightscorp destroyed or otherwise failed to preserve the evidence of its alleged detections. Grande also said that the emails it received from Rightscorp lacked any supporting or verifiable evidence.
The decision against Grande follows a previous decision against Cox Communications in which Cox was found liable for $1 billion in damages for copyright infringements by its customers. Cox has appealed that decision.
Grande has not yet said whether it plans to appeal.