Judge: Isohunt infringes copyrights
A federal judge has come down hard on BitTorrent tracking site Isohunt, issuing a summary judgment in favor of the film industry.
Isohunt, founded in 2003, indexes music, movies, games and software for download via BitTorrent. However, in 2006 the Motion Picture Association of America sued Isohunt founder Gary Fung for copyright infringement. Indeed, much of the material indexed on Isohunt is copyrighted, and in 2007, Fung had to move Isohunt to Canada after its U.S. hosting service shut the site down without warning.
Isohunt responds to takedown requests, however the MPAA argues that Fung turned a blind eye to most copyright infringement, claiming that 95 percent of the site’s content is copyrighted.
The summary judgment means that the court sided with the movie industry, as the facts aren’t being disputed, and so a jury is unnecessary. In the ruling (PDF), as spotted by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, U.S. district judge Stephen Wilson said Isohunt isn’t much different than earlier file sharing sites, such as Napster. Instead of logging into a proprietary network, users visit a Web site. And instead of downloading files directly, the users download a torrent file that manages the download.
“Defendants’ technology is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle,” Wilson wrote.
It didn’t help that Fung’s public statements showed a willingness to infringe copyrights. In one interview, Fung said users were attracted to the site because of the availability of popular films. In a forum post, he gave users advice on burning DVDs from the copyrighted movies they downloaded.
Fung’s counter-argument is three-fold: Content files aren’t downloaded directly through Isohunt, users are scattered around the world instead of solely in the United States and Fung’s conduct is defended under the First Amendment. Wilson said those defenses can’t be decided by a jury in trial.
However, it seems likely that Fung will appeal the decision, in which case a higher court judge may get to rule on his arguments. Given the slow pace of litigation, don’t expect this to be resolved any time soon.
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