Texas-based Internet provider Grande Communications has accused several record labels and anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp of destroying evidence. The labels sued the ISP for failing to terminate accounts of repeat infringers. However, Grande says that nearly all information about the underlying copyright infringement notices was deleted.
Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement. Music rights company BMG got the ball rolling a few years ago when it won its piracy liability lawsuit against Cox. Following this defeat, several major record labels including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court. With help from the RIAA, they sued ISP Grande Communications for allegedly turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers. According to the labels, the Internet provider knew that some of its subscribers were frequently distributing copyrighted material, and accused the company of failing to take any meaningful action in response. The case is now heading to trial, where the ISP might not have a safe harbor defense. However, if it’s up to Grande, the record labels should start the trial without their most important evidence; the “infringement notices” of Rightscorp.
Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has a database of close to a billion copyright infringements. While the company’s original business model of automated settlements hasn’t been very lucrative, the notices are gladly used by copyright holders in court. They were the basis of the BMG v.s Cox lawsuit and in the record labels’ case against Grande they are also front and center. According to Grande, however, this evidence is unusable. Its attorneys have previously branded it as inaccurate but this month they added an even more damaging claim. The ISP accuses the labels and Rightscorp of destroying vital evidence. While the notices are all intact, much of the underlying information has been removed. The ISP argues that this makes it impossible to determine precisely how Rightscorp’s system functioned and what information about Grande’s subscribers was collected in each case.