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IsoHunt Goes Out with a Bang

By Angele Chapman

BitTorrent websites like IsoHunt.com have become the "underground" way to illegally download music, movies, and more without paying. BitTorrent is a file distribution protocol that enables torrent files to be shared between users through a peer-to-peer file sharing software. These torrents usually contain media files that are hot commodities for those who wish to avoid paying for movies, music, programs, and other products. This new blast of technology is opening up the doors to copyright infringement and a great deal of lawsuits in the entertainment industry.

In March of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment ruling in favor of seven film studios, finding that the defendant Gary Fung, who is the founder of IsoHunt, induced third parties to download infringing copies of the plaintiffs' copyrighted works. (Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., et al. v. Gary Fung, et al., Case No. 10-55946 (9th Cir., Mar.21, 2013) (Berzon, J.)). Fung failed in his attempt to use the DMCA's safe harbor provision as a defense against parties such as Disney Enterprises, Inc, Paramount Pictures Corp., and Warner Bros Entertainment, Inc. Fung asserted, "A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider's transmitting, routing, or providing connections for, material through a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, or by reason of the intermediate and transient storage of that material in the course of such transmitting, routing or providing connections..." (Columbia Pictures Indus. v. Gary Fung, 710 F.3d 1020, 1040 (9th Cir. Cal. 2013)).

After this case, other companies whose business has been affected by IsoHunt's copyright infringement have joined in seeking an injunction. As result, IsoHunt and the Motion Picture Association of America recently reached a settlement for $110 million, three weeks before their trial was set to begin. IsoHunt will finally shut down, after over 10 years of operation, to its 7.5 million unique visitors. This settlement also includes a global prohibition against founder Gary Fung from further profiting from the infringement of MPAA member studio content. (Popular BitTorrent Site IsoHunt Shutdown, Forced To Pay $110 Million, RT (Oct. 18, 2013, 3:46 PM), http://rt.com/usa/bittorrent-isohunt-shutdown-forced-340/)

What this Means for IsoHunt

IsoHunt has agreed to cease all of its international operations, leading to the shutdown of another top BitTorrent file sharing website. Gary Fung agreed to this settlement as it became apparent he was fighting a losing battle. Another motivating factor may have been that the MPAA warned Fung that it was seeking as much as $600 million in damages if the case proceeded to trial. Nonetheless, this settlement sends a strong message to other BitTorrent websites that continue to infiltrate the entertainment industry and profit from illegal business practices by enabling users to engage in copyright infringement. (Eriq Gardner, IsoHunt To Shut Down After Settlement With Hollywood Studios, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (Oct. 17, 2013, 9:31 AM),

This settlement speaks volumes for the power that large media companies have to shutdown file sharing websites. Specifically, it places a duty on websites to regulate the files being shared in order to avoid copyright liability. It also causes great concern for those companies who have evolved primarily on their access to such illegal activity. However, there seems to be an apparent difference between decisions stemming from courts in Europe and the United States. For example, The Pirate Bay, another torrent website, was handed a judgment against it in Swedish courts, yet the website is still in operation. Both websites were sued by the MPAA, yet The Pirate Bay has been able to survive that lawsuit. Regardless of what country in which the website is based, the March decision and recent settlement between IsoHunt and MPAA illustrates that enforcing copyright infringement is essential to major corporations.

As of October 23rd, the IsoHunt website no longer existed. The founder wrote a farewell letter to his users and advised as to how they might go about obtaining sought-after torrent files. He noted, "about 95% of those torrent files can be found off Google regardless and mostly have been indexed from other BitTorrent sites in the first place." His quote depicts that while the content companies may feel as if they have won the battle here, the war is far from lost.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 31, 2013 4:30 PM.

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