Last year after a Texas jury found the ISP Grande Communications liable for contributory copyright infringement, it was ordered to pay $47 million to record labels. Now the ISP must appeal if it seeks to overturn it.
In March 2023, Grande Communications filed a renewed motion for judgment. The company wants a district judge to overrule the jury’s verdict, or for a new trial to allow the piracy liability issues to be raised again before a new jury. District Court Judge David Ezra ruled on the motion, denying both of those requests. He says the jury verdict is perfectly fine and the court didn’t make any errors either—so no new trial by jury needed.
Grande Communications’ lawyers argue that there was a lack of copyright infringement evidence at the trial. None of the 1,403 original copyrighted works that were allegedly pirated were on hand for comparison. And the lawyers argue that its unclear if the actual infringing parties were actually Grande subscribers or if they were tertiarily using the network—such as WiFi stealing.
Judge David Ezra replied that the evidence of a hard drive of downloaded files and detailed testimony was enough to show the downloads matched the copyrighted sound recordings without matches needing to be made in court. Raising the issue of users piggybacking off of their neighbors’ WiFi didn’t help, either.
“Grande undermined its theory about unauthorized users conducting infringement by admitting at trial that it holds its subscribers fully responsible for all conduct occurring on their accounts, whether they are authorized users or not,” notes the judge in his ruling.
The court believes there is substantial evidence that Grande Communications subscribers uploaded pirated content and made it available to download. That’s thanks to the piracy-tracker, Rightscorp.
“Plaintiffs provided evidences of actual uploads by Grande users, and downloads by Rightscorp: Rightscorp reapproached Grande users who had previously offered the work for copying and downloaded at least one complete copy of the work,” the judge continues in his ruling.
The $47 million ruling stands until Grande Communications appeals in the United States Court of Appeals.