Last August, Digital Music News was first to report that major labels Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment had filed a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against Princeton, New Jersey-headquartered internet service provider (ISP) RCN Corporation. Now, RCN has fired back with a countersuit.
Filed by the major labels and spearheaded by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the original complaint alleged that RCN hadn’t done enough to curb its customers’ piracy, thereby becoming a “haven” for copyright infringement. Based on the available knowledge of subscribers’ media-downloading habits, the plaintiffs maintained that the TPG Capital subsidiary RCN “could easily have stopped” many illegal actions.
In a new collection of legal documents, which were just recently submitted to a New Jersey federal court, RCN refutes the claims outlined in the plaintiffs’ amended complaint and introduces allegations of its own. The initial third or so of the 53-page-long filing encompasses RCN’s point-by-point acknowledgment or denial of the major labels’ claims, including a steadfast refutation of the request for relief. Additionally, RCN states that it’s “adopted and reasonably implemented” a policy that identifies “repeat copyright infringers” and “can culminate in termination of the affected subscriber’s account.”
On the countersuit front, RCN accuses the plaintiffs of implementing “unfair and fraudulent business practices” by “generating and sending millions of unsupported emails” alleging illegal downloads on BitTorrent – and “intentionally destroying the evidence necessary to determine whether any of those accusations were true.”
The counterclaim alleges that the labels capitalized upon alleged instances of BitTorrent infringement detected by Rightscorp “not because they are true, but because the nature and volume of the accusations allow” them to gain leverage over RCN and other ISPs. To be sure, the firmly worded countersuit describes Rightscorp’s process for pinpointing copyright infringement as “a sham built on shoddy business practices, the willful destruction of evidence, and a cavalier approach to—if not outright disregard for—the truth.”
Emphasizing the perceived inaccuracy of Rightscorp’s infringement-identifying efforts (the company allegedly “does not vet that its clients actually own rights in the songs”), RCN then reiterates that the Santa Monica-based company deletes the data associated with alleged copyright infringements. These far-reaching alleged deletions concern both the information that details how Rightscorp identified purported infringers and “the actual evidence of copyright infringement,” showing that the parties at hand “actually possess the target music file and are offering to share it with others.”
Though Rightscorps has sent RCN “millions” of emails identifying alleged copyright infringements from its users, once again, these and other alleged absences of copyright-information proof render the clients and RCN itself unable to “test the accuracy of” the claims. And because the overarching behavior “significantly harms competition, is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, and substantially injurious to consumers and competition,” RCN maintains that it constitutes a violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL).
At the time of this writing, the RIAA hadn’t publicly responded to RCN’s counterclaims. In June, we reported that Cox Communications was looking to dramatically reduce the $1 billion copyright infringement penalty that a jury levied against it in a similar case filed by the RIAA and the major labels.