October 21, 2013
The Motion Picture Association of America announced that the file sharing search engine isoHunt is shutting down and will pay movie studios 110 million dollars in damages. The search engine has been fighting with studios since 2006, but is finally reaching its demise due to a court ruling that says it enables users to pirate copyrighted works. The site enables users to find files on peer-to-peer networks utilizing BitTorrent file sharing software.
“The court’s opinion was based on a landmark 2005 Supreme Court decision finding that the file-sharing company Grokster was liable for its users’ infringement,” reports The Washington Post. “In that case, both sides wanted the Supreme Court to rule on whether making a product that was overwhelmingly used for infringing purposes could itself be the basis for copyright liability.”
Essentially, while some technologies are made specifically for pirating purposes, others are leveraged for illegal applications, and the penalties for both scenarios should not be the same. The Supreme Court realized this and was able to come to a fair conclusion.
“Pointing to ample evidence that Grokster had encouraged its users to infringe copyrights, the Supreme Court fashioned a new ‘inducement’ theory of copyright liability. Under this theory, if you build a product that can be used for piracy and you encourage your users to use it for illicit purposes, then you can be held liable for their infringement,” explains The Washington Post.
While some critics argue that this new theory may spark frivolous lawsuits against technology innovators, if there is no proof that an entrepreneur is encouraging illicit activity, they are protected from legal action.
However, there is clear evidence against isoHunt that they were attempting to profit from infringement. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that there was a time when “isoHunt prominently featured a list of ‘Box Office Movies,’ containing the 20 highest-grossing movies then playing in U.S. theaters. When a user clicked on a listed title, she would be invited to ‘upload [a] torrent’ file for that movie.”
There is also evidence that the founder of isoHunt would post messages to the isoHunt forum to encourage users to upload torrents for copyrighted films. He also provided links to torrent files for various movies.