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Canadian Torrent Site Recieves Summary Judgement from U.S. Circuit Court

December 31, 2009
No more 'freedom of information' for isoHunt.

No more 'freedom of information' for isoHunt.

Copyright litigation continues to traverse international borders as a California Circuit-Court ordered a summary judgment against a Vancouver-based torrent site last week. 2009 has been a tough year on high-profile torrent sites, and this decade of unprecedented media replication has ended with yet another legal blow to the file sharing community. Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the defendant, isoHunt intentionally encouraged copyright infringement.

isoHunt has long maintained that it is only a search engine that hosts cached files to torrent trackers. Its founder, Gary Fung, argues that in this capacity, isoHunt is Google or Yahoo an essential part of how the web works. The defense has argued that it does not store any files on its servers for users to download directly, and therefore do not fall under the legal definition of copyright infringers. Judge Wilson dismissed this, calling the torrent tracker “nothing more than old wine in a new bottle.”

Fung has long disputed charges of copyright infringement. In a letter to the Canadian Government, he writes that as his sites already have a copyright protocol in place, they are already functioning in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, specifically with notice and takedown provision.

Fung has further argued that some of the content on users’ computers is copyright protected and some is not. To complicate the issue further, some content is free in some countries and yet rights-protected many in others. Since he does not possess the technology to determine what files are and are not protected on a user-to-user basis, he asserts that the only practical thing to do is to put into place the notice-and-takedown policy.

The defense is correct that they do not actually host any content, nor do they choose which torrent files get downloaded and used. However, isoHunt almost certainly has logs of what titles are chosen, and many of those are clearly copyright protected.
The isoHunt development team has come up with their latest project, one that Mr. Fung says will change the way people will think about P2P sharing. The recently unveiled Hexagon.cc is either a brilliant legal strategy or something more high-minded, but it is could serve as a model for content development within community groups. As the suffix indicates, this site is geared toward the Creative Commons community, providing them with a dedicated site for creating groups and sharing original content.

This article cites an EU study that found majority of consumers have decided that they will never pay for content. However, the study reports it is not piracy of copyrighted material that has hurt the industry, but an increasing abundance of free content that provide consumers with an “all you can eat” buffet. This leaves content creators with the question of how to recreate their business models so that they can earn a living. This has been the prevalent question of the late 00’s.

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