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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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No Reprieve for isoHunt in Copyright-Aiding Suit

(CN) - The owner of the popular BitTorrent search engine isoHunt.com is liable for contributory copyright infringement, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.

The federal appeals court in Pasadena found that Gary Fung, a Canadian national who founded the site in 2003, "offered his services with the object of promoting their use to infringe copyrighted material," and that "no reasonable jury could find otherwise."

Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount and other Hollywood giants sued Fung in 2006, claiming that isoHunt.com and other sites that Fung owned had helped Internet users locate and watch hit movies for free, thus inducing them to violate the plaintiffs' copyrights.

A federal judge in Los Angeles granted the film companies summary judgment in 2009 and issued an injunction severely limiting Fung's activities.

The only glimmer of hope that the 9th Circuit could offer Fung on appeal was to slightly modify the injunction Thursday. Otherwise the three-judge panel found plenty of evidence against Fung, noting several instances of his "encouragement of the uploading of torrent files concerning copyrighted content."

"For a time, for example, isoHunt prominently featured a list of 'Box Office Movies,' containing the 20 highest-grossing movies then playing in U.S. theaters," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the panel. "When a user clicked on a listed title, she would be invited to 'upload [a] torrent' file for that movie. In other words, she would be asked to upload a file that, once downloaded by other users, would lead directly to their obtaining infringing content. Fung also posted numerous messages to the isoHunt forum requesting that users upload torrents for specific copyrighted films; in other posts, he provided links to torrent files for copyrighted movies, urging users to download them."

She added that the "record is replete with instances of Fung responding personally to queries for assistance in: uploading torrent files corresponding to obviously copyrighted material, finding particular copyrighted movies and television shows, getting pirated material to play properly, and burning the infringing content onto DVDs for playback on televisions."

Fung had argued that certain provisions in the injunction could be interpreted to prevent him from working for just about any technology company. The panel agreed and ordered the injunction amended "insofar as [it] can be interpreted to prohibit Fung from seeking legitimate employment."

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