isoHunt operator vows copyright ruling appeal

For the London Free Press - April 19, 2010 Read this on Canoe

n December 2009, isoHunt, a BitTorrent and peer-to-peer search engine, was found liable by a U.S. District Court judge for inducing copyright infringement. The operator of the isoHunt website says he will appeal.

IsoHunt was founded by Canadian Gary Fung in January 2003. According to Wikipedia, thousands of torrents are added to and deleted from the website each day. Users of the website perform more than 40 million unique searches each month.

The isoHunt website is a file search engine, but according to its creator, it does not induce copyright infringement. This distinction is crucial because over the last few years, a number of peer-to-peer service companies have been shut down because they were deemed to have induced copyright infringement.

These players include Napster, shut down in 2001, Grokster and Morpheus, shut down in 2005, and TorrentSpy, shut down in 2008.

BitTorrent websites allow users to download files of any kind directly from the computers of other users. Fung says the isoHunt website is similar to a search engine, such as Google, as the website itself does not store any contents and the files are not downloaded from the servers of the websites, and thus should not be liable for inducing copyright infringement.

The U.S. District Court said Fung had solicited infringement of copyrighted files by the way he has designed his website and by comments he made in interviews and online. For example, the isoHunt website allows users to access the top searches or the top files by category. The website also links users to websites that have torrent files or that invite users to upload copyrighted files. The judge felt Fung was aware of the copyright infringement and actively induced the infringement.

More recently, Judge Stephen Wilson of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered isoHunt to remove all infringing content from its website.

"It is axiomatic that the availability of free infringing copies of the plaintiffs' work through defendants' websites irreparably undermines the growing legitimate market for consumers to purchase access to the same works," Judge Wilson said.

Fung said Wilson's injunction "amounts to nothing less than taking down our search engine . . . We're discussing the mechanics, the process that is reasonable for an injunction. We're still trying to hope that the judge will do the right thing."

IsoHunt has also taken the initiative and sued the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to get a court ruling regarding the legality of the website. This came before the Supreme Court of British Columbia in March 2009 for a summary judgment, but the court ordered the matter proceed to trial.

The line where someone becomes liable for a copyright infringement of another is not clear. U.S. courts have found some peer-to-peer service companies liable for providing tools that were deemed to be intended to be used for unlawful copying. But others have created services that essentially allow users to do the same thing but in a way that avoids liability for copyright infringement