When It Rains, It Pours: RCN Faces Indie Film Litigant as Major Label Lawsuits Simmer

RCN indie film
  • Save

RCN indie film
  • Save
Photo Credit: Sasun Bughdaryan

Besieged by major label lawsuits, RCN faces another multi-million dollar piracy suit — this time from an indie film litigant.

Internet service provider RCN has been battling lawsuits from major music companies, including music rights group BMG, since 2016. US copyright law states that internet providers must terminate the accounts of repeat copyright infringers in “appropriate circumstances,” but the requirements of what makes up those circumstances have been notably murky.

Some providers, including Cox and Grande Communications, have been ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages, though these cases are currently under appeal. But RCN has been a frequent flier in the piracy lawsuit world, having been hit with suits from numerous record labels and even film companies.

Independent movie distributor Screen Media Ventures (SMV) previously tried to join an existing joint lawsuit against RCN, but the inclusion of its more than 320 copyrighted works to the growing list of film companies already involved led to SMV’s request being denied.

As an “extensive broadening” of the case against RCN, “the burden of engaging in the likely discovery, motion practice, and trial associated with the same would be unfairly prejudicial to RCN.”

While SMV and the case’s plaintiffs opposed the denial, SMV filed a new case to prove a point — that it would actually have simplified things and saved resources for the court system had they just tacked SMV’s grievances onto the existing lawsuit. SMV’s complaint is essentially identical to the filmmakers’ joint lawsuit.

SMV writes it has invested significant financial resources, time, and effort in marketing its films, and online piracy intercepts those investments that would typically be recouped through sales.

The lawsuit names 324 works affected by RCN’s negligence to address piracy through terminated the accounts of repeat offenders. Those works could result in upwards of $48,600,000 in damages — but the suit indicates that SMV will likely focus only on the works that were most frequently pirated.

SMV has also requested a broad injunction stipulating that RCN will terminate the accounts of subscribers who receive more than three copyright infringement notices in 72 hours. Further, the injunction should require the provider to block access to “known pirate sites,” such as The Pirate Bay, as identified by the US Trade Representative.

Whether SMV’s case will make it to trial is unknown, but the company has undoubtedly sent a clear message: denying their request to join the existing lawsuit probably won’t save the court system any time or resources in the long run.