On December 14, 2022, a group of music rightsholders including BMG, UMG, and Capitol filed a complaint at a Texas district court, accusing Altice, the parent company of ISP Optimum, of facilitating massive copyright infringement.
Just days ahead of that lawsuit’s one-year anniversary, Altice now finds itself fighting a second and substantially similar lawsuit, filed by 49 member labels of the RIAA at the same Texas court.
Different Plaintiffs, Same Underlying Allegations
Filed at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the complaint has Warner Records, Sony Music, plus another 47 recording labels, alleging contributory and vicarious copyright infringement against Altice, owner of ISP Optimum.
The ISP “knowingly contributed to, and reaped substantial profits from, massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers” the labels claim.
By now the base allegations are very familiar. The labels claim that many of the ISP’s 200,000 Texas-based subscribers used Altice’s network to “directly and repeatedly infringe” the plaintiffs’ copyrights by sharing their musical works on BitTorrent networks. After failing to suspend or terminate the accounts of these customers, even after receiving multiple notices of their infringing activity, the plaintiffs say that Altice must now be held to account.
“Specifically, Plaintiffs seek relief for claims that accrued between December 2020 – December 2023…for infringement of works by Altice subscribers after those particular subscribers were identified to Altice in multiple infringement notices,” the complaint notes.
Egregious Repeat Infringers
To highlight the extent of infringing conduct by Altice customers, the complaint provides information on three “egregious repeat infringers” believed to be located in Tyler, Athens, and Jacksonville respectively.
Identified only by an IP address, the first subscriber was reportedly caught distributing (uploading) copyrighted works owned by the plaintiffs over 75 times between January 2023 and March 2023. A second subscriber was observed uploading the labels’ copyrighted works over 70 times between August 2021 and April 2023, while a third was caught over 100 times between December 2021 and June 2022.
The plaintiffs say that in all three cases and for each instance of observed infringement, notifications were sent to Altice advising the ISP that infringement was ongoing. According to the labels, no action was taken to either suspend or terminate the accounts of these and other repeat infringers, despite the ISP having the right and ability to do so.
Infringement Contrary to Altice Policies, and the Law
The labels claim they were forced to file a lawsuit against Altice because the ISP “has gone out of its way not to take action against subscribers engaging in repeated copyright infringement, at the expense of copyright owners.”
The complaint alleges that Altice’s failure to take action stands contrary to its own policies.
The company’s ‘Copyright Infringement Policy’ states that subscribers must not “store, distribute or otherwise disseminate” content in a manner that infringes third-party intellectual property rights. The labels claim that Altice failed to follow its own rules which state that its response to infringement may include account suspensions or terminations “in appropriate circumstances.”
“[A]ltice knew that its subscribers routinely used its networks for illegally downloading and uploading copyrighted works, especially music,” the complaint continues.
“Plaintiffs repeatedly notified Altice that thousands of its subscribers were actively utilizing its service to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works. Those notices gave Altice the specific identities of its subscribers engaged in copyright infringement, referred to by their unique Internet Protocol or ‘IP’ addresses. Altice also received millions of notices from other copyright owners, some of which undoubtedly addressed the same subscribers as Plaintiffs’ notices.”
No Safe Harbor Under DMCA
According to the complaint, between February 2020 through November 2023, the plaintiffs sent 70,000 DMCA-compliant copyright infringement notices which detailed specific infringements carried out by specific Altice subscribers using P2P protocols including BitTorrent.
Previously, evidence was supplied by anti-piracy company Rightscorp but in this case monitoring was carried out by OpSec LLC, previously known as MarkMonitor.
Using proprietary technology, OpSec’s system connected with Altice subscribers using P2P software and confirmed, in each instance, (1) that the subscriber was online, (2) that the subscriber was running a file sharing program, (3) that the subscriber told OpSec that it possessed a confirmed infringing file, identified by a unique “hash” value, and (4) that the subscriber in fact began to distribute the confirmed infringing file, identified by unique “hash” value. OpSec also verified the file hashes to confirm that Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works were being distributed. Once OpSec had collected this evidence of infringement, OpSec generated and sent a notice of infringement to Altice.
“Put another way,” the complaint continues, “while Plaintiffs undertook the burden and responsibility of monitoring Altice’s network for infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, only Altice could take action against its subscribers for violating Altice’s own Copyright Infringement Policy and Terms of Service by infringing Plaintiffs’ works.”
Instead, the labels add, Altice turned a blind eye to massive infringement, despite knowing which subscribers were engaged in repeat infringement while having the right and ability to end it, including by suspending or terminating their accounts.
Contributory and Vicarious Copyright Infringement
The complaint describes Altice as a willful, intentional, and purposeful contributory infringer, and therefore liable for the direct infringements carried out by its subscribers. The labels seek up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringement or an amount to be determined at trial.
The labels say that Altice is also liable as a vicarious infringer after deriving “an obvious and direct financial benefit from its customers’ infringement” including through the collection of “illicit revenue” from subscribers who should’ve been suspended but were not. Again, the labels seek up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringement or an amount to be determined at trial.
The complaint is available here (pdf)
Full list of plaintiffs as follows:
Warner Records Inc.
Atlantic Recording Corporation
Atlantic Records Group LLC
Bad Boy Records LLC
Big Beat Records Inc.
Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.
Fueled by Ramen LLC
Lava Records LLC
Maverick Recording Company
Nonesuch Records Inc.
Rhino Entertainment Company
Rhino Entertainment LLC
Roadrunner Records, Inc.
Warner Music Inc.
Warner Music International Services Limited
Warner Music Nashville LLC
Warner Records/QRI Venture, Inc.
Sony Music Entertainment
Arista Records, LLC
LaFace Records, LLC
Sony Music Entertainment US Latin LLC
Ultra Records, LLC
Volcano Entertainment III, LLC
Zomba Recording LLC
Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Cotillion Music, Inc.
Gene Autry’s Western Music Publishing Co.
Golden West Melodies, Inc.
Intersong U.S.A., Inc.
Unichappell Music Inc.
W Chappell Music Corp.
W.C.M. Music Corp.
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.
Sony Music Publishing (US) LLC
Colgems-EMI Music Inc.
EMI April Music Inc.
EMI Blackwood Music Inc.
EMI Consortium Music Publishing, Inc.
EMI Consortium Songs, Inc.
EMI Entertainment World Inc.
EMI Gold Horizon Music Corp.
EMI Miller Catalog Inc.
EMI Mills Music Inc.
EMI Robbins Catalog Inc.
EMI U Catalog Inc.
EMI Unart Catalog Inc.
Famous Music LLC
Jobete Music Co., Inc.
Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc.
Stone Agate Music
Stone Diamond Music Corp.
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