IsoHunt Loses Big; Court Says: You Induce, You Lose
from the ah,-the-old-inducement-standard dept
One of the many lawsuits against file sharing sites/search engines around the world is the IsoHunt lawsuit — yet another case where the entertainment industry decided a marginal player in the space didn’t have enough attention and sued. While the judge in the case had earlier pointed out that the MPAA failed to show actual evidence of infringement of copyrights by US users on IsoHunt, that still didn’t stop the judge from granting summary judgment to the movie studios, saying that because IsoHunt induced infringement, it loses, no trial needed. This isn’t a huge surprise, given how courts have ruled previously, but there are some oddities in the ruling, which you can see below:
“Morally, I’m a Christian. ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ But to me, even copyright infringement when it occurs may not necessarily be stealing.”
The court seems to think this indicates inducement, but if that’s the case, then shouldn’t the Supreme Court itself be guilty as well for famously stating in the Dowling case:
“(copyright infringement) does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud… The infringer invades a statutorily defined province guaranteed to the copyright holder alone. But he does not assume physical control over copyright; nor does he wholly deprive its owner of its use.”
If the first is inducement, isn’t the latter as well? Furthermore, the court seems to take a quote that refers to “stealing from leechers” to mean inducing infringement, apparently not recognizing that leechers have a very specific meaning in the BitTorrent world, and the statement appears to have nothing to do with infringing on copyright.
That said, there are some other things that put Fung on much thinner ice, including helping people find certain files and helping explain how trackers work — though, again, it’s not clear that Fung would know for certain that the files being searched for were infringing. The court does find it (reasonably) damning that Fung presented a list of top box office films, with links to pages that asked people to share torrent files that pointed to the films themselves. You can certainly see how that could trigger the “inducement” finding.
But what may be most interesting (or troubling, depending on your perspective) is the court’s discussion on the DMCA, which basically says that DMCA safe harbors do not apply if it can be shown that the site turned a blind eye to infringement. If that reasoning is used, it could eventually implicate sites like YouTube, despite rulings like the one in the Veoh case. Expect IsoHunt to appeal, though given the details in the case, it seems quite unlikely that it will prevail. There are too many precedents against this sort of operation, even if the court misinterpreted Fung’s statements, which it deems as “most telling” in the ruling.