In 2018, a coalition of more than 50 companies filed suit against Cox Communication for not limiting the actions of its users on the internet. These companies included some heavy hitters, such as Sony, Universal, and Warner. The issue at hand surrounds piracy on the internet and the company's lack of response to the activity on its network. The music companies argued that Cox Communications was legally responsible for selectively preventing access to certain content on its network.
This week, a jury in a Virginia Federal Court agreed with this argument and awarded this coalition $1 billion in damages. The ruling came after three weeks worth of trial and testimony, in which the coalition argued that Cox Communications was liable for around 10,000 compromised recordings and compositions, which were made available freely through their network infrastructure, which simply provides access to the internet.
This ruling sets a terrifying legal precedent for the future of the internet in the United States. Legally, the responsibility for breaking the law has always been placed on the person who commits the illegal act, not those who unknowingly provide a structure that is compromised to commit the act. Never has the federal government been held responsible for someone using a public road to escape a bank robbery, nor has Ford ever been held responsible for the Simpson murders. That's because the government and Ford did not intend to help these activities.
By holding Cox Communications liable for the actions of those who compromise the intent of the network has two major issues. The first and most obvious is the idea that the court system is encouraging a network operator to pay strict attention to what you are doing on their network and either prevent or report certain activities. That goes against the very nature of the internet, which is intended to be an open and universal experience. Luckily, these companies have a lot of examples to follow, from China, Russia, and others.