Big Three vs. ISPs – $47M piracy ruling against Grande Communications ISP upheld by federal court

Photo credit: Grande Communications

Last year, after a Texas jury found ISP Grande Communications liable for contributory copyright infringement, it was ordered to pay record labels $47 million. Now the ISP must appeal if they want to overturn the request.

In March 2023, Grande Communications filed a new motion for judgment. The company wants a district judge to overturn the jury’s verdict or to have a new trial instituted so that the piracy liability issues can be reopened before a new jury. District Judge David Ezra decided on the applicationand rejected both requests. He says the jury’s verdict was in order and the court made no mistakes, so no new jury trial is necessary.

Grande Communications’ attorneys argue that there was a lack of evidence of copyright infringement at the trial. None of the 1,403 original copyrighted works that were allegedly pirated were available for comparison. And the lawyers argue it’s unclear whether the actual infringers were actually Grande subscribers, or whether they were just using the network for third parties — like stealing Wi-Fi.

Judge David Ezra responded that evidence of a hard drive containing downloaded files and detailed testimony were sufficient to show that the downloads matched the copyrighted audio recordings without the need for a court match. It also didn’t help address the issue of users using their neighbors’ WiFi.

“Grande has undermined its theory that unauthorized users are infringing by admitting in court that it holds its subscribers fully responsible for all behavior on their accounts, whether or not they are authorized users,” he said judge in his verdict.

The court concludes that there is substantial evidence that Grande Communications subscribers uploaded and made available for download pirated content. That’s thanks to piracy tracker Rightscorp.

“The plaintiffs presented evidence of actual uploads by Grande users and downloads by Rightscorp: Rightscorp again reached out to Grande users who had previously offered the work for copying and downloaded at least one full copy of the work,” the judge continued in his judgment continued.

The $47 million judgment stands pending appeal by Grande Communications to the United States Court of Appeals.