Cox Communications, one of the largest broadband ISPs in the world, recently lost one of the largest infringement lawsuits ever litigated. The Virginia-based access provider has been entangled in litigation related to its customers’ illegal downloading of copyrighted material. There has been a lot of speculation and arguments regarding the liability of Cox in this matter.

Argument from Cox states that it merely provides access to the Internet, and its compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) offers it “safe harbor” from any illegal downloading and sharing by its customers.

However, a federal jury ruled that Cox is guilty of both contributory and willful contributory copyright infringement. The jury awarded $25 million, which may be a tip of the iceberg if damages are filled in coming months.

Cox is preparing to appeal, saying it is considering available options. This ruling is the latest event in a chain of events that started this fall. Cox has been battling litigation from publishers BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music for more than a year, though the ISP was just recently stripped of its DMCA protections by a US District Court judge. 

BMG took Cox Communications to court over allegations that it basically ignored the illegal activity occurring on its network. It also took issue with the ISP for failing to address repeat offenders by not sending notices to pirates or taking any action to stop some of them from sharing copyrighted songs through BitTorrent applications.

Weeks before the $25 million verdict, a judge essentially agreed with BMG, ruling that Cox Communications wasn’t entitled to DMCA safe-harbor protections because it didn’t close accounts of repeat offenders. As part of the DMCA, ISPs are required to do everything in their power to stop digital pirates.