A number of law firms in locations across the country have filed suits, on behalf of independent film owners, against large numbers of unnamed or “Doe” defendants, alleging that they copied or shared films over their Internet service using “Peer-to-Peer” file sharing services.
These firms assert that they identified the IP (Internet Protocol) address for computers that participate in sharing of their files. They identify these “Doe” defendants based on this asserted information.
IP addresses are assigned to computer equipment by Internet Service Provider (ISP) companies like Cox for communication over the Internet, in something like the way that telephone numbers are used for voice calls. Although IP addresses change periodically, Cox and other ISPs keep records of the customers they are assigned to for a period of time. As a result, your current IP address may not be the same as it was on an earlier date, such as the date these suits claim to have found infringing copies of their films. These law firms can search for and identify Peer-to-Peer participant computers and their shared content, even when not in use, if connected to the Internet. They may not, however, be able to distinguish between computers that may be connected over an open, meaning unsecured, WiFi network.
Some courts have ruled that suits against large numbers of “Doe” defendants from many locations are not permitted. In others, courts have permitted the cases to continue and have ordered ISPs to turn over information identifying the claimed infringing customers.
Cox Response to Court Orders
IP address records are treated as private by Cox and are protected from disclosure, unless required by law. In cases like those discussed above, the law firms obtain court orders for Cox and other ISPs to turn over information identifying the customers assigned IP addresses they claim to have had infringing material on dates they specify.
Cox has a team that researches and responds to the large number of these court ordered disclosures and carefully checks our IP address records and compares them electronically and manually against our customer account information. Then each customer is notified by mail before any information is turned over to the law firms.
If you receive a letter, we recommend that you promptly seek knowledgeable legal advice. Unfortunately, we are required to turn over information by law and cannot provide legal advice or consider individual defenses or circumstances. Such requests can only be addressed to the court. If you do obtain a lawyer and file a “motion to quash”, we ask you to provide us with a copy, so that we can withhold the information until the motion is ruled on. Other than this recommendation, there is nothing more that Cox can do to assist you in any way.
Law Firm Actions
Once a law firm has received court ordered information, we understand that it sends letters or make telephone calls to pressure the identified defendant to pay a settlement amount in order to avoid further litigation. We cannot provide any advice concerning these demands. Nor can we speculate as to whether such litigation may be pursued. In addition, we cannot speculate as to the reliability or accuracy of the identification techniques used by the law firms. Our own internal research, based on the claimed infringer’s IP address, however, is carefully and reliably performed.
Contacts for General Questions
If you receive a notice from Cox or a demand from a law firm in one of these cases, now or in the future, we ask that you not contact us, unless it is to present a motion that has been filed with the court -- this can be faxed to Cox at 404-269-1898.
There are a number of websites that offer information concerning the issues in these ongoing lawsuits that are being continually filed. One resource that may prove helpful to claimed defendants is USCG v. The People | Electronic Frontier Foundation, found on https://www.eff.org.
File Sharing and Copyright Infringement
Cox does not endorse the position of any party related to these lawsuits. We do encourage safe and knowledgeable use of the Internet and work to educate our customers to this end.
The following general information pertains to music and video downloads, file sharing and copyright protection as it relates to Cox Communications and Cox High Speed Internet policies:
- Copyright law protects the rights of copyright holders by giving media publishers the legal power to remove illegally shared content such as music and movies.
- Copyright owners can file suit to obtain information identifying alleged infringers engaged in file sharing.
- Cox places a high value on customer privacy and also recognizes the rights of copyright holders to protect their copyrighted material. We must however turn over information identifying customers when required by law.
File sharing programs like Bit Torrent and others provide a means for Internet users to download content from others. Sharing and downloading copyrighted materials like music, movies and television programming without the consent of the copyright owner is illegal and can lead to significant liability for those who download and those who make it available through these programs. Cox strongly discourages its customers from infringement like this and urge customers to be sure that their computers or wireless networks are not used by others for these purposes.