Charter Communications Moves to Delay Scheduling Conference in Latest Major Label Legal Battle

Last month, mega-ISP Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) officially moved to dismiss the second and latest copyright infringement lawsuit it’s facing from the major labels. Now, the Spectrum operator and its legal team have formally filed for a multi-month extension in the courtroom confrontation.

The Big Three record labels – Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music – submitted this most recent suit against Charter Communications in late July. In the action, the major labels (as well as their publishing companies and several subsidiaries) accused the entity of contributing to and reaping “substantial profits from” alleged copyright infringement committed by its subscribers between July 26th, 2018, and the filing date.

Moreover, the ongoing first lawsuit filed against Charter by the major labels concerns alleged copyright infringement that occurred from March 24th, 2013, until May 17th, 2016. Additionally, ISP Bright House (which Charter bought in 2016) is facing a 2019 infringement action from the Big Three labels, and Charter’s counsel has described this complaint as “substantially similar” to the first case.

As initially mentioned, Charter Communications and its legal team are now seeking a multi-month delay in the most recent case, specifically involving pushing back a scheduling/planning conference from November 2nd, 2021, until “a date on or after January 10, 2022.” Plus, the ISP is also requesting “a protective order staying the deadline for the parties’ initial disclosures and all other discovery until the” disagreements pertaining to the scheduling/planning conference are resolved.

On this front, the defendants included as an exhibit a collection of emails that they exchanged with the major labels’ legal professionals between late September and this month’s initial six days. Needless to say, given Charter’s newly filed motion to reschedule, the involved individuals were unable to reach a compromise despite their seemingly extensive correspondence.

In brief, the defendants noted in the first disclosed email that they thought “it would be beneficial for both sides and the Court to request to reschedule the scheduling conference to a later date in January 2022.” The major labels’ attorneys made clear their desire “to keep the current date for the scheduling conference” – save for a possible delay until later in November – besides moving forward with a Rule 26(f) conference as planned.

Charter relayed that the latter would be “premature,” and the dispute seemed to snowball (over the course of several thousand words) from there. Regarding the reasons behind Charter’s request to move the scheduling conference into the new year, the current date “is not convenient due to the many impending deadlines and obligations in the Charter I and Bright House cases,” according to the corresponding legal document.

Furthermore, “a global mediation” (for the initial two suits and “presumably” the third) is set for November 9th, Charter notes, with mediation briefs due on November 2nd – the scheduling/planning conference’s current date. Additionally, “eleven expert depositions” will be taken “in the next two weeks” for the major labels’ first case against Charter, and the plaintiffs allegedly “served twelve expert reports in Bright House on September 29, 2021.”

“In the month of October, there are also two separate hearings on four different motions to compel pending in the Bright House case, which require travel by counsel to and from Tampa, Florida on October 14, 2021 and October 22, 2021,” the text proceeds, before highlighting other deposition-related hang-ups, different scheduling considerations yet, and the quick-approaching holiday season’s possible effects on travel.

At the time of this piece’s publishing, the major labels didn’t appear to have publicly responded to Charter’s formal request for a scheduling/planning conference delay. Worth mentioning in conclusion is that the first lawsuit between Charter and the major labels is slated to go to trial on October 24th, 2022, against August of 2022 for the suit involving Bright House.

Late last month, Cox Communications alleged concealment of evidence and “misstatements at trial” amid an effort to overturn a $1 billion verdict in its own legal battle with the major labels.

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