Forced MPAA Filter On IsoHunt Means Legitimate Content Is Being Censored

from the not-cool dept

One of the more bizarre rulings in copyright/file sharing cases was the district court ruling in the IsoHunt search engine case a couple years ago. It’s still involved in the appeals process, but the district court is one of the only courts so far to broadly interpret the DMCA’s “red flags” rule to mean that general knowledge means you have to block access. The ruling ended up being that IsoHunt basically had to accept a keyword filter from the MPAA and block all access to anything that matched the keywords. As you can imagine, that’s leading to significant overblocking of legitimate content.

TorrentFreak has the unfortunate story of filmmaker Brian Taylor, who released a short horror film called “the Bite” via his En Queue Film production studio, and decided to distribute it via isoHunt. However, that’s when things went bad:

“I got it going, had downloads start from the US and Europe almost immediately, which made me a very happy guy,” Taylor told TorrentFreak.

However, this enthusiasm faded quickly when he tried to access the torrent from a US connection a day later. Instead of a link to the torrent file the filmmaker was welcomed with the following message. “Torrent has been censored, as required by US court.”

They also note that a torrent of public domain music has been blocked by the MPAA (even though the MPAA’s filter is about movies, not music). Of course, this is what happens when you force overblocking and the use of technologically stupid filtering methods like keywords. What’s amazing is that a court made this same mistake a decade ago with Napster (forcing keyword blocking) and it didn’t work then, and doesn’t work now. It’s amazing that judges who clearly are technologically illiterate find it reasonable to make rules up out of thin air like this one, that not only does little to block any actual infringement, but does plenty to block legitimate uses of tools.

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Companies: isohunt

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Comments on “Forced MPAA Filter On IsoHunt Means Legitimate Content Is Being Censored”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You have obviously never had to explain the internet to someones grandmother. It doesn’t matter how smart they are it just doesn’t make sense at first.

Having done tech work for lawyers I know how clueless they can be, its not a intelligence problem its a generation gap. Sure after some time your can get anyone’s grandma using a gmail account, but do they really understand what works and how it works? Not usually. It is the same thing with these judges, who have never searched for a torrent, or used iso hunt or downloaded much of anything. They just don’t understand how these things work and the best ways to go about fixing them. So they implement something laughably stupid to anyone who has a good deal of tech experience, like keyword filtering on a search engine.

My Titanic Failure – a independent CC movie about a judge who makes stupid decsions gets blocked from isohunt

t i t a n i c
titan ic – All illegal torrents of James Cameron’s Titanic all easily available on isohunt.

But no youre right they are judges so this is a genius system.

ToFit says:

The independents need to sue for business interference and press FTC to break up the monoply and unfair trade practices. They should press for the 150k damages for each media item distribution loss as the media companies claim each transaction is worth.

This MPAA and RIAA activity might even be chargable for raketeering if you could ever get the government to look at this seriously or understand that small businesses are being harmed.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

How can we put them on Youtube. You said we should avoid any sites that are dominated by piracy. According to Viacom, Youtube is the pirate flagship.

As for your other suggestions, I don’t think those would work, especially when someone is wanting to get mass exposure. Personal hosting is great when you already have a following, or when you have tons of money to make a large following. Using existing services that have large numbers of users is far better for independent artists to get the mass following necessary to make such self hosting worthwhile.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

According to GWiz (“Really? Isohunt get a million unique visitors a day.”) YouTube would have been a far better choise since it gets 1000 times as many visitors per day than isohunt. So your arguments are ridiculous, and I don’t give a fuck what Viacom says about YouTube, obviously Mr. Taylor doesn’t either otherwise he wouldn’t have used torrent streams to distribute his video. Please Mr. Knight tell use what percentage of torrent traffic is authorized distribution.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Obviously, I don’t have that data. However, according to the Supreme Court ruling in the Betamax case, it doesn’t matter:

Whatever the future percentage of legal versus illegal home-use recording might be, an injunction which seeks to deprive the public of the very tool or article of commerce capable of some noninfringing use would be an extremely harsh remedy, as well as one unprecedented in copyright law.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“what percentage…” 78%.

The remaining 22% is unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.

I made that number up, just like the losses were made up by the MPAA/RIAA/IFPI/etc.. and you have no proof or means to prove counter to my claims (unlike the data the discredits the MPAA/RIAA/IFPI/etc.. data).

Everyone should be able to use the technology available, via physical stores or bitTorrent or whatever they choose. That’s called fair access to distribution means. And such fair access does not exist because the MPAA/RIAA/IFPI/etc.. fear competition (they know most of what they release could not stand up against several independent works).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“I made that number up, just like the losses were made up by the MPAA/RIAA/IFPI/etc.. and you have no proof or means to prove counter to my claims (unlike the data the discredits the MPAA/RIAA/IFPI/etc.. data).”

Actually you didn’t make it up “just like” they do. Your numbers actually add up to 100%. If they would have made up the numbers it would be more like…


Mathematics isn’t their strong suit remember?

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Like the Youtube that is being sued, or hosting services such as megaupload that are being arrested and sued? When observably these people think “piracy” = “anything that doesn’t give most if not all of the money straight to the **AA companies” it rather sounds like you did nothing to challenge Mr Rhodes’ point.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are more distribution methods that reach a greater number of potential viewers than torrent listing sites.

Really? Isohunt get a million unique visitors a day. That’s damn good for the price.

And the underlying point is still there:

Torrents are a completely legal and reasonable way to distribute a work you own the rights to. The MPAA filter is blocking legitimate content they have no rights to. Bottom line.

The Logician says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Your assumption of the .torrent format’s nature is incorrect, Gray AC. The format and the use of it are two different things, and it would be advisable for you to see them as such. The .torrent format is merely that, a format, a tool. Nothing more and nothing less. Its uses are widely varied, so do not focus on one merely because it displeases you. You state that that is its only use without any empirical data to support that conclusion. Therefore, your argument is invalid.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I don’t think you understand what a strawman argument is. We are talking about someone who is trying to legally distribute his content via download being blocked from doing so.

You are the one making suggestions that don’t meet 1 or more of the following criteria:

1) Allow for a direct download.
2) Provides a high enough bandwidth for mass distribution
3) Have wide exposure

Torrents and IsoHunt meet all those requirements.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Sorry you are right it is not illegal. Still your argument is don’t use this service designed to let people download your work because lots of pirates also use that service. Use this other service not designed to let people download your work and then give them instructions on how to download it even though that violates the terms of service and will have your video pulled and your account suspended.

Lets just agree that youtube is not a viable alternative to torrents.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

What they are confused about is why you think IsoHunt is dominated by Piracy, but YouTube isn’t. Just because you can’t download something directly from Youtube without violating their user agreement doesn’t mean the stuff on YouTube is automatically piracy free. Even though YouTube is full of infringing material, it is still legal, and a lot of content that is legitimate is censored through bogus takedown notices in the name of censoring the actually infringing material.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Quick Fast & Easy

You and your requirements!

If you have ludicrous requirements like “fast” “easy” “free” “lots of people” then of course you land on torrents!

Don’t you get it? If the gatekeepers die out, we’ll have no gates! We already have no Jobs (Steve Jobs 1955-2011), no Cash (Johnny Cash 1932-2003), and no Hope (Bob Hope 1903-2003) and you want Bill Gates dead!!??!! What’s wrong with you?!


AzureSky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: sorry but

sorry but those sites do not allow unlimited bandwidth, they also limit concurrent connections and download speeds(as to be fair to other users)

Vimeo isnt ideal, most people I talk to have no clue what Vimeo is or cant watch videos there due to buffering issues.

DailyMotion isnt ideal for similar reasons, Also your forced to use formats approved by said services, much like youtube where the quality tends to be questionable after encoding to youtube formats…

really these days, torrent based hosting makes alot more sense if you want to share quality content, streaming sites force you to compromise on quality, also streaming content dosnt work to well if somebody wants to watch it offline like many people I know do when travling.

also note that I am quite sure that the MPAA and RIAA view these sites as just a shade less rogue then megaupload.

just like mediafire is now a target of the MPAA these sites that could be used for infringement are all evil according to the mpaa/riaa, because they dont give the riaa/mpaa the majority of their income.

I have seen every major video hosting service/site listed at one time or another as “rogue”, no reasonable service is free from these accusations, and if one shows up, it will be accused…its a given….

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

None of those compare to what you get from torrents and you are kidding yourself thinking they are. YouTube, Vimeo and such end up being lower quality and they are streams. A stream of a video is not the same as actually having the video file.

You then point to free web hosts. I guess you missed the part about being FAST. On a free web host you are going to be sharing a server with who knows how many other web pages. If you get 10-20 people downloading an HD video from your site while others are on the other pages on the server then it is going to be a crawl. Not to mention the fact the host will promptly throttle you or just kick you off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This is what happens when you have an educational system based on chasing vapid grades and pieces of paper that are supposed to represent knowledge by regurgitation. People hired in positions that they aren’t qualified for because they were good little conformers in school instead of actually learning something.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

There are plenty of people that can’t even write simple code walking out of college with a BA in computer science. I see the next wave of them every day in class and when working on projects. They just spam different common versions of syntax until something compiles and call it a day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Lets see, circumstances… claim to be a software engineer, but don’t know a damn thing about software, so you’re moonlighting in hopes to be hired to be a **AA shill, or you’re just flat-out lying about the software engineer thing, and are already being paid to be a shill.

I’m pretty sure that covers it, shill.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Jamendo is a music site offering access to more than 30,000 Creative Commons-licensed albums. All music is available for free via direct download and BitTorrent. features a few thousand torrents specifically tailored towards the gaming community, but we?re not just talking patches and demo relases: The site also offers access to a few hundred trailers, previews and in some cases even full-featured films promoting games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Public Domain Torrents is a slightly older site with the occasional database error, but that only seems to be fitting for the subject matter. The site features hundreds of torrents for movies with expired copyright. In other words: Pretty old stuff. Or classics, depending on your point of view.

Legit Torrents is aggregating legally available torrents from various sources, with the content including the NIN concert DVD Another Version of the Truth and the Michael Moore film Slacker Uprising.

Limecast is a podcast directory operated by the makers of Limewire. Users can opt to stream or download clips right within their browser, or access torrent files for episodes of popular podcasts like GeekBrief.TV, Diggnation or the Ricky Gervais Podcast. Not all the feeds seem to be up to date, but the site is still pretty neat.

Mininova is still serving access to close to 10,000 legitimate torrents, including HD space mission footage from NASA, documentaries from public broadcasters and user-generated animation shorts. Mininova still clocks about 300,000 downloads per day.

Blizzard games studio, makers of World of Warcraft, use torrents to distribute all their content. From new installs to patches.

Most of that was pulled from:

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You know, that statistical information pertaining to mininova is interesting. It would have been great to throw in the faces of the kids claiming because MU had a 10 to 1 download to upload ratio it was used primarily to infringe.

If mininova only has 10,000 legitimate files still up and gets 300k downloads a day that would mean in 3 days it would be well under the 10-1 ratio.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Really? Hmm. That must be while recently the Cyanogenmod team has put all their nightlies and release candidates and stable ROMs up and available through download using torrents.

It must also be why awhile back I got to preview Windows 8. Released through a torrent.

I guess that’s the same reason quite a few BIG game companies release updates and patches through torrents.

Hmm. I know of quite a few bands, software companies, etc that do nothing but release stuff using torrents. Why? Because IT IS LEGAL. It eases the burden of hosting the data themselves, while allowing for maximum upload/download rate (which the users handle) and so on and so forth.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, there are a plethora of albums, shows and movies also being distributed freely and legally through torrents. Vodo anyone?

Yes, but we’ll take the word of some Anonymous Coward who claims to be a software programmer on the legality and usefulness of torrents and torrent sites. He’s obviously quite educated and knowledgeable. /s

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

They handle all their software distribution that way now. They have a bunch of high bandwidth servers spread around so you still download primarily from them, but you do share with other peers. So if all their servers got slammed the network could support it. But most people downloading a game or patch, with Blizzard’s software, close it after its done so you don’t have the same kind of long term seeders as you would with a normal client.

Really its a easy way for them to spread out the 10+ million downloads of a 500mb file in a 24 hour period when they patch WOW. They don’t have to worry about mirror links, region based web addresses or one server buckling under the pressure of the requests, they just use available resources from their pre-existing network more than they use real peer-to-peer distribution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“I don’t care if the filtering works or not, I don’t use torrent distribution for anything. I don’t seek out pirated works, I don’t upload videos, I don’t share illegal content, I don’t download illegal content I DON’T HAVE FREINDS, I DON’T HAVE A LIFE. It’s that simple.”

There fixed it for you.

Lowestofthekeys (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“I don’t care if the filtering works or not, I don’t use torrent distribution for anything. I don’t seek out pirated works, I don’t upload videos, I don’t share illegal content, I don’t download illegal content. It’s that simple.”

You sound incredibly out of touch with technology, especially when you equate the innovation of torrent distribution with only piracy.

Plenty of legitimate uses have been found for distribution via torrent, in fact the movie titled “The Tunnel” found success being trnasferred via torrent (

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So your argument is: “I don’t care if something he finds useful is not available to him because some giant company doesn’t like it because it is not a service I use. If I can make it through life without needing something so can this guy!” ?? because your alternatives all suck. But you wouldn’t know that because you don’t have a need to distribute large files to random audiences in large groups quickly.

Modplan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Do you really not know your history?

It was argued that the VCR would kill TV because it allowed people to commit piracy, and they should be allowed to effectively ban it. It’s only use as far as they were concerned was piracy. Courts ruled that time shifting was fair use, and entertainment companies made lots of money from home video regardless.

So before you claim people should move on to services that aren’t pirate havens, you might want to provide the name of a service that:

a) Isn’t some sort of haven to piracy
b) Is still useful to artists wanting to distribute their work for free (to them) and free of charge (to their fans)

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What are you talking about. Your comment is not even remotely related to my comment. You might as well have typed in random words.

Lol. Not random words. A paraphrasing of Jack Valenti’s words concerning the VCR and how it would destroy the film industry in the early 80’s. Kind of like today, with the MPAA and all these so called “sites that are dominated by piracy”.

Dreddsnik says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

” Not even close, the dominate use of the English language is to communicate, not to swindle. The dominate use of knives is to cut food not to stab others. “

The dominaNT ( note the correction ) of all language is, in fact, to obfuscate. Communication has always been secondary to deception. Examine any carefully worded contract or legal document. The wordings are used to hide true intent and leave room for loopholes. Heck even the Bible ( if you believe in ‘magic books’ ) states ….

7 ” Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

which would indicate the creation of different languages was meant to create confusion.

Language was always primarily a means of deception and confusion.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The dominate use of knives is to cut food”

ASSuming thats all you believe a knife can do.

Knives serve many purposes, and I will even go as far as to say the dominate use of knives is not to cut food.

“Not even close, the dominate use of the English language is to communicate, not to swindle.”
So f’in stupid I will just leave it at that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, if you don’t like the truth, just “report” it out of existence. That is the problem with this site, you really ARE a bunch of mindless knobs who refuse to listen to any opinion that doesn’t allow you to steal content, that supports the MPAA, the RIAA, ASCAP, hell establishment of any kind. I give up trying to educate you, you want to remain ignorant fine. I wont be returning to this site, see this is why you feel like so many people on here agree with you, you run everyone else off.

The “report” button should be used for people who are making OFFENSIVE comments not for people with opinions that differ from yours. Censorship of opposing opinions is worse than collatoral damage from takedown notices.

Now instead of having discussions you can all just use thumbs up to say what a great job Mike is doing and you can pat each other on the back. That makes this site even less useful than it already was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Tell me, if we’re the mindless knobs why can you not back up your assertions with actual, proven facts instead of parroting the PR of these lobbying companies? People like you ARE offensive to us, because you spew mindless ‘factoids’ out as if they were /real/, and scream at us to prove our assertions without doing likewise for yourself. You even go silent when someone presents you with facts to back themselves up.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s what happens when you have morons that dont understand technology making court rulings concerning technology. those that are having legal content blocked need to sue those that have had the keyword filter put in place, not the site that has been forced to implement that filter. the judge should also be severely reprimanded for instructing isohunt to implement the filter without having any idea of the consequences. no point in lurching from one balls up to another one without knowing the detrimental effects first. suffering ‘collateral damage’ is a poor excuse and doesn’t help those with the blocked, legitimate content!

Zos (profile) says:

Given that they don’t understand the tech, or why keyword blocking won’t work, it’s not precisely reasonable to expect them to understand, or even be aware of the existence of, those tools you mention.
Here’s what we’ve learned from the drug war… “You, and everything about your incomprehensible hippy lifestyle are now criminals. it doesn’t matter how we screw up your lives, because all of you dirty pirates are breaking the law. You aren’t consumers, or voters, or citizens. you’re defendants in waiting, in need of being run to ground.” If we don’t have a law that fits you’re crime, we’ll make some shit up. Or we’ll charge your wife with conspiracy (kim dotcom’s learning all about this one).

Get used to it. pirate is the new dopefiend. (and anyone not toeing the line is a pirate. or a terrorist. whatever.)
Welcome to being the new enemy in “the war on”.

Bengie says:


“They also note that a torrent of public domain music has been blocked by the MPAA (even though the MPAA’s filter is about movies, not music)”

There needs to be legal recourse for when “mistakes” are made. Both the Judge and the company should be held responsible.

We need punishments that scale so three “mistakes” within a year will bankrupt any company, no matter how large.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Punishment

I vote for the 6 strikes and we cut the companies access to the internet. They seem to think this is a logical and fair punishment so why not turn it around and see what they say.

Of course these don’t need to be actual “mistakes”. They just have to be accused 6 times and then without warning cut their net.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

ISO Hunt is the one choosing what is and is not blocked. They can go a better job, but are appearing to choose not to.

What? The MPAA provided the list of keywords, per the courts instructions. How exactly is IsoHunt choosing anything? They block stuff that matches the keyword list.

It even says that in the article above:

“The ruling ended up being that IsoHunt basically had to accept a keyword filter from the MPAA and block all access to anything that matched the keywords.”

If I was to create a documentary titled “The Last Hours of the Titanic” and I put it out a torrent of it, IsoHunt would have to block it in the US because of the word Titanic.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Which again shows that ISO hunt isn’t doing a good job with the filter, and is in fact being very literal and annoying to try to prove a point.

Ok. Let me explain this s-l-o-w-l-y for you.

A keyword filter consists of a list of words. If the keyword appears in the name of the torrent (and maybe in the description – not sure about that part) IsoHunt has to block that torrent for US users. They have no choice at all. A keyword filter is, by it’s nature, very literal. That’s kind of the whole point of this article – that keyword filters for infringing content are not very efficient and will always block some legitimate content.

And that is not even taking into account that content is considered infringing by how it is or has been used, not just because it exists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Perhaps then ISO Hunt might want to consider not listing clearly infringing material, so that they may petition the court to one day lift the order.

Seems like they did it to themselves, and now are administrating the filter in the most literal and poorest way possible.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Perhaps then ISO Hunt might want to consider not listing clearly infringing material,…

And what exactly would “clearly infringing material” be?

You understand that the internet is global, right? If a user in a country where file sharing is legal for personal use is sharing a with someone else in their own country then no infringement has occurred. Without knowing how the file is being used and by whom, you can’t just say it is a infringing file.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

So….these filters show how hard it is to just remove all infringing content without taking out legitimate content and missing a ton of illegitimate content. This is the best solution that the court and MPAA lawyers could agree upon. So you have the audacity to say “well if isohunt would have thought up a better way to somehow remove all infringing content out of millions of user submitted posts daily they wouldn’t have to follow this stupid court order.”? Really so if they had just figured out a method that no one has ever been able to figure out they would have been fine.

Also, you act like they have a choice in how they administer the filter. Its a court order to block the words given to them, they don’t get to choose how to follow it. Its a fucking court order.

mustang03282 (user link) says:

death of homebrew

This crap is killing the home brew scene. I was trying to update my dropad android tablet and every link I went to to download a newer better rom the link was taking down by the dog. These roms did not include google apps. You had to install gaaps yourself so there was no copy write infringement yet the doj still removed the links. How the hell does that make sence

Elliander says:

I think film makers who release their films into the public domain to promote themselves and are then blocked should file a lawsuit against whatever companies placed the block in the first place on the grounds of “lost revenue” and “theft of intellectual property” – See, only the copyright holder has any legal rights over a piece of intellectual property. If an organization makes a legal claim against your property than that organization has stolen your intellectual property.

All it would take is one lawsuit for damages to go through. That would set a precedent which would end the matter completely.

Ferc Polo says:

Torrents =/= Piracy. End of story. This US rule of “Torrent = Terrorism” is horrifying. They are branding WORDS now. They started with Terrorist…that word means ‘enemy of the state’ these days. Now Torrent means “pirated work”.

It’s abominable that the American People are standing for this usurpation of their lexicon.

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