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  9. Cox Communications has submitted its appeal brief, asking the court to reverse the $1 billion jury verdict handed down following a piracy liability lawsuit filed by several major record labels. The Internet provider argues that it's being incorrectly held liable for pirating subscribers. Cox says that the music industry is waging war on the internet, which will never be the same again if the verdict is upheld. Late 2019, Internet provider Cox Communications lost its legal battle against a group of major record labels. Following a two-week trial, a Virginia jury held Cox liable for its pirating subscribers. The ISP failed to disconnect repeat infringers and was ordered to pay $1 billion in damages. Heavily disappointed by the decision, Cox later asked the court to set the jury verdict aside and decide the issue directly. In addition, the company argued that the “shockingly excessive” damages should be lowered. Both requests were denied by the court, which upheld the original damages award. Despite the setbacks, Cox isn’t giving up. The company believes that the district court’s ruling isn’t just a disaster for Internet providers. If it stands, the verdict will have dramatic consequences for the general public as well. Cox Files Appeal Brief This week the ISP submitted its opening brief at the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, hoping to reverse the lower court’s judgment. The filing begins by placing the lawsuit in a historical context. “The music industry is waging war on the internet,” Cox’s lawyers write. First, the music companies went after thousands of file-sharers and software companies such as Napster. When those tactics didn’t deliver the desired result, Internet providers became a target. “So, 15 years after Napster, the music industry launched an aggressive new strategy: Attack the internet itself, suing the internet service providers — the cable and phone companies, like Defendant Cox Communications, that deliver the internet.” How to Handle Repeat Infringers The entire dispute revolves around the legal obligations Internet providers have when it comes to pirating subscribers. According to the law, ISPs must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that allows them to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances. According to the music companies, this means that ISPs should terminate accounts after rightsholders send several infringement notices, regardless of the circumstances. However, Cox and other ISPs have historically been very hesitant to disconnect subscribers, in part because they believe it’s ‘not appropriate’ to disconnect entire companies or households from the Internet. Cox reiterates this stance in its appeal brief. Impossible Spot “The legal rules Plaintiffs advocate put ISPs in an impossible spot. ISPs will have to boot entire households or businesses off the internet— cutting their lifelines, their livelihoods, and their social connections— based on a few isolated and potentially inaccurate allegations. “Or they will have to invade our privacy by developing new capabilities to monitor our internet usage 24/7 to ferret out illegal activity. The internet will never be the same,” Cox adds. This doesn’t mean that Cox simply ignored piracy. The company was actually one of the first US ISPs to implement its own ‘graduated response’ system to address copyright infringers. According to the music companies, however, these warnings and temporary disconnections were not good enough. According to Cox, the district court and the jury were wrong to side with the record labels for a variety of reasons. Vicarious Infringement The first argument is that an ISP should not be held vicariously liable for pirating subscribers when it doesn’t directly profit from this activity. “Cox receives no ‘direct financial benefit’ from infringement. Its subscribers pay the same flat fee for internet services whether they infringe or not. Subscribers are in no sense acting in Cox’s financial interest by downloading songs,” Cox writes. Adding to that, the ISP stresses that it can’t control or supervise its six million subscribers. Blocking or policing infringing activity is impossible, which also weighs against vicarious liability. Contributory Infringement The contributory liability verdict should be overturned as well, according to Cox. The district court was wrong to conclude that past infringement notices gave Cox enough reason to believe that subscribers would pirate again in the future. Separately, Cox argues that the district court was wrong to conclude that the ISP ‘materially contributed’ to pirating activities simply because people can use Internet access that way. “That means Cox cannot be liable based on ‘generalized knowledge’ that people infringe on its network; instead, Plaintiffs had to prove Cox knew of the ‘specific instances of infringement’ for which it was being held liable.” Excessive Damages In addition to overturning the vicarious and contributory liability verdicts, Cox also argues that the $1 billion damages award was wrong. This figure covers thousands of works that should not have been counted and is many times higher than the actual harm. “The district court’s errors have resulted in an award of historic proportions. The $1 billion judgment is entirely untethered from both the harm it caused —$692,000 in displaced downloads — and Cox’s culpability.” Cox says it didn’t directly infringe any of the music tracks, nor did it encourage anyone to infringe. Its liability rests on the decision to keep subscribers connected longer than the music companies liked. The ISP hopes that the Court of Appeals will reverse or vacate the district court ruling. If not, the consequences will be devastating. “If sustained, this judgment would elevate the interests of the music industry over those of ordinary, and often blameless, people who depend on the internet. The consequences will be devastating,” Cox concludes. —- A copy of Cox’s opening brief, filed at the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, is available here (pdf). Content source: TorrentFreak .
  10. Njalla is a privacy-focused domain name service founded by Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde. The company helps to keep domain name owners anonymous and is generally skeptical of legal threats. Over the past weeks, however, Njalla found itself in a position where it had to take several accused 'pirate' sites offline, to keep other customers safe. njallaFour years ago Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde helped to launch Njalla, a privacy-oriented domain registration startup. The company offers a proxy for domain name registrars who don’t want their personal details listed in Whois records. As such, it’s effectively operating as a privacy shield. “Njalla is needed because we’re going the wrong way in society regarding people’s right to be anonymous. With social media pressuring us to be less anonymous and services being centralized, we need alternatives,” Sunde told us at the time. This approach has attracted thousands of customers who, for various reasons, choose to hide their identities. While these website operators are happy, copyright holders have criticized Njalla for protecting pirate sites. Copyright Holders are Not Happy Last fall the RIAA and MPAA reported the company to the US Trade Representative, characterizing it as a notorious market that aids pirate sites. While Njalla disagrees with this characterization, the company is known for digging its heels in the sand when it comes to legal pressure. Njalla complies with ‘appropriate’ court orders but it has also brushed off several legal complaints and requests, even from the US Government. Recently, however, the pressure became too large for Njalla to ignore. ‘Pirate’ Domains Go Offline Over the past week, TorrentFreak noticed that several domain names registered by Njalla had become unavailable. This includes,,, and The domains were updated to Njalla-owned nameservers and simply stopped resolving. Ceci n’est pas njalla dns As it turns out, Njalla took this action in response to legal pressure from Iceland. Local copyright holders went after the .is domain registry (ISNIC), which received several abuse complaints and legal threats over Njalla-registered domains. Take Action Or Lose All .is Domains ISNIC then referred the matter to Njalla, urging the company to take action. If not, Iceland’s registry would have the right to suspend Njalla’s NIC-handle, and all domains connected to it. A Njalla spokesperson informs TorrentFreak the company’s hand was forced, and it saw no other option than to take the domains ‘offline’. If Njalla had decided to ignore the request, all other .is domains under their control would have been at risk. That includes the domains of many other customers. In an ideal situation, Njalla would fight this type of pressure tooth and nail but in this case, it would’ve done more harm than good. Flixtor Understands At the time of writing, all of the affected sites using .is domains have continued doing business under new domains. The operator of Flixtor told us that he is happy with how Njalla handled the matter, as there was clearly no other option. The only downside for Flixtor is a significant loss of Google traffic. As a result, many users now end up at fake sites, filled with malware and phishing scams. ISNIC Takes Stand Against Abuse When we asked ISNIC about the matter, the registry said that it has seen a rise in abuse complaints, which it has to address properly and swiftly. “An increasing number of what is called ‘abusive domain registrations’ is a real problem/concern for all serious domain name Registries. For us at ISNIC, the integrity of the .is domain as such plays an important role in our day-to-day work,” ISNIC CEO Jens Pétur Jensen says. ISNIC confirmed that if Njalla had not have taken action, it would’ve suspended the company’s NIC-handle based on Article 12 of the .is domain rules. As mentioned earlier, that would mean that all Njalla-registered .is domains would’ve gone offline. Pressure After talking to various parties it is clear that a lot of legal pressure is being applied in the background. Copyright holders are pressuring ISNIC which in turn has been pressuring Njalla. Ultimately, copyright holders are trying to find out the identities of those who operate these alleged pirate domains. However, since Njalla is the official owner according to Whois data, ISNIC can’t help with this. Unless they change the rules to prohibit proxy registrations, perhaps. According to Njalla, there is also an ongoing court case in Iceland to find out who the end-users of these domains are, so it’s likely that we haven’t heard the last of this. Content source: TorrentFreak .
  11. Every day, people who download and share pirated content receive DMCA notices via their ISPs, warning them to cease and desist their infringing behavior. While the majority of these notices are accurate, one Ubuntu user says he has just been targeted by an anti-piracy company alleging that by torrenting an OS ISO released by Ubuntu itself, he breached copyright law. UbuntuTwo decades ago, the BitTorrent protocol revolutionized peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing. The content-agnostic system allowed people to efficiently share and download even the largest files and soon grew to become the dominant method of transfer for millions of file-sharers. Over the years, people have shared all kinds of content using torrents and it quickly became associated with mass copyright infringement of movies, TV shows, music and everything in between. However, BitTorrent is also used to distribute large volumes of data with the blessing of rightsholders, with the sharing of Linux distros a prime example. Indeed, large companies such as Ubuntu owner Canonical actively encourage the distribution of their packages via BitTorrent, even going as far as operating their own tracker. This is effectively a green light for users to obtain Ubuntu using BitTorrent and is universally considered to be entirely safe. However, a development yesterday caused mass confusion when a user was accused of copyright infringement via a notice from his ISP. Anti-Piracy Firm Sends DMCA Notice Against Comcast User Posting to Reddit’s /r/linux sub-Reddit, a forum with more than 656K subscribers, ‘NateNate60’ reported the unthinkable. After downloading an official Ubuntu ISO package (filename ubuntu- he says he received a notice from Comcast’s Infinity claiming that he’d been reported for copyright infringement. “We have received a notification by a copyright owner, or its authorized agent, reporting an alleged infringement of one or more copyrighted works made on or over your Xfinity Internet service,” the posted notice reads. NateNate60 wisely redacted the notice to remove the ‘Incident Number’ and the precise time of the alleged infringement to protect his privacy but the clam was reported filed with Comcast on May 24, 2021. “The copyright owner has identified the IP address associated with your Xfinity Internet account at the time as the source of the infringing works,” it continues, adding that NateNate60 should search all of his devices connected to his network and delete the files mentioned in the complaint. ubuntu dmca comcast Detail of the Allegedly-Infringing Content and DMCA Notice The allegedly infringing content is the 64-bit Ubuntu LTS release but the first big question is whether the file is actually the official release from Canonical. Given that the listed hash value is 4ba4fbf7231a3a660e86892707d25c135533a16a and that matches the hash of the official release, mislabeled or misidentified content (wrong hash, mislabeled file etc) appears to be ruled out. Indeed, the same hash value is listed on Ubuntu’s very own BitTorrent tracker and according to NateNate60, this is where he downloaded the torrent that led to the DMCA notice. It doesn’t get much more official than that. According to the DMCA notice sent by Comcast, the complainant wasn’t Ubuntu/Canonical but an anti-piracy company called OpSec Security, which according to its imprint is based in Germany. TorrentFreak has contacted OpSec for a comment on the DMCA notice but at the time of writing the company is yet to respond. Implications of the DMCA Notice It is certainly possible for someone to fake a DMCA notice (and also cause outrage by choosing controversial content such as Ubuntu) so we have also contacted Canonical for its take on the claims being made. While we wait for the company to weigh in, it seems possible that this is some kind of error, one that could be easily triggered by someone cutting-and-pasting the wrong hash value into a BitTorrent monitoring system. That being said, there can be consequences even when erroneous DMCA notices aren’t properly handled. Presuming the notice is genuine (albeit sent in error), Comcast needs to be informed that mistakes have been made. The ISP has a repeat infringer policy and given the current hostile environment, terminating users is certainly on the agenda. Indeed, the notice states just that. “We remind you that use of our service in any manner that constitutes an infringement of any copyrighted work is a violation of Comcast’s DMCA Policy and may result in the suspension or termination of your service and account,” it warns. Arguably unwisely, however, NateNate60 says he isn’t going to take the matter up with Comcast. “I really don’t want to risk them shutting off my Internet access over this stupid thing so I’m probably just going to ignore it,” he wrote on Reddit. Again, we need to wait for responses from OpSec and Ubuntu explaining why this notice was sent but not contesting an erroneous DMCA notice has implications. For example, should NateNate60 suddenly get another couple of similar notices (regardless of whether they are genuine or sent in error), Comcast may feel that in order to retain its safe harbor under the DMCA, terminating the account might be its only option. At that point the damage has been done and it could prove even more difficult to get the account reinstated. Also, if this notice is indicative of a broader issue, it seems unlikely that NateNate60 will be the only recipient of a ‘strike’ against his account for downloading/sharing official Ubuntu torrents. Raising the issue quickly will allow the parties to see what went wrong here (if that’s indeed the case) and prevent it from happening again. We’ll update this post when Canonical and OpSec Security respond to our requests for comment. Content source: TorrentFreak .