Court Says File-Sharing Service IsoHunt Illegally Fosters Piracy
US content owners’ battle against online piracy has received a significant boost with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issuing a unanimous decision against the website isoHunt for “inducing” users to download and distribute copyrighted material such as movies and TV programmes illegally.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, hailed by the Motion Picture Association of America, marks the first time a federal appeals court has ruled against a BitTorrent search engine. IsoHunt, TorrenTBox and Podtropolis unlawfully pointed the way to free movies, music, videogames and software that were copyrighted and not authorized for the sites’ operator — Gary Fung — to help distribute, the court said.
Programmer Bram Cohen released the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol in 2001, and its efficient way of transferring files has become the method of choice for illicit, peer-to-peer sharing of copyright-protected content that sites like Canada’s isoHunt and Europe’s The Pirate Bay have capitalized upon.
“This ruling affirms a core principle of copyright law: Those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions,” said Henry Hoberman, a vice president for the MPAA, which initially sued Fung in 2009.
Even if you interpret the data in a light favorable to IsoHunt, there’s no question that the site’s main use was to trade copyrighted material, the judges wrote. Columbia’s expert found that between 90 and 96 percent of content on the site was confirmed or “highly likely” to infringe copyright. And while Fung “takes issue” with some aspects of the methodology, “he does not attempt to rebut the factual assertion that his services were widely used to infringe copyrights.” Even tripling the margin of error on the Columbia survey would mean that the overwhelming use of IsoHunt was to violate copyright.