Frontier Communications is being sued by record labels for failing to uncouple pirates

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Frontier Communications, an ISP that serves approximately 3 million subscribers, has been sued by the Warner, Sony and Universal record labels for allegedly not taking action against users who pirate music (through Ars Technica).

The record labels claim in their complaint (PDF) that Frontier not only failed to disconnect people who repeatedly pirated, but it even encouraged them by advertising the ability to “download 10 songs in 3.5 seconds” and took advantage of the result. The labels also claim that Frontier ignored piracy from its subscribers so it could continue collecting subscription fees, and said the ISP valued profit over legal responsibility.

Frontier denies wrongdoing, tells The edge that it has terminated customers when copyright holders complain. The ISP plans to “defend itself vigorously”.

The lawsuit, filed in New York State, seeks damages from Frontier for its subscribers who infringed nearly 3,000 copyrighted works after the ISP was repeatedly notified of their infringement. A list of illegal numbers (PDF) contains Thank you, Next by Ariana Grande, roadside (no relation to this publication) by Owl City, and rich as fuck by Lil Wayne featuring 2 Chainz.

The labels are demanding $300,000 per breach, which would put the ISP on the hook for more than $850 million. It is worth noting that Frontier Communications emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy last month — having to pay that much in damages wouldn’t be good for any company, but certainly not for a company that just got out of that situation.

Warner, Sony and Universal have also sued other ISPs such as Charter and Cox on similar grounds, winning a $1 billion prize from the latter (although that case still in process of appeal). And over the past 20 years, the music industry has tried several approaches to curb online piracy, from: sue individuals to work with ISPs to set up a strike system.

The approaches have not been particularly effective and have been largely abandoned, and it is difficult to envision the tactic of suing ISPs working to stop music piracy. And, as Ars Technica points outISPs forced to shut down pirates can also affect other people living with them, denying entire households access to a fundamental part of modern life.