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Christmas Blues for isoHunt – Liable for Inducing Copyright Infringement
December 24, 2009
Thomas Mennecke
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A California court has granted Columbia Pictures a summary judgment against Gary Fung, the owner and administrator of isoHunt.com, TorrentBox.com, ed2k-it.com and Podtropolis.com. In the summary judgment, Judge Stephen Wilson found little different in Gary Fung’s operation from other products such as Napster, Grokster or Usenet.com. The court found that Gary Fung was liable for inducing copyright infringement.

The Plaintiffs in the case had also brought up vicarious and contributory infringement. But the court did not explore these issues, choosing instead to concentrate solely on inducement. According to the summary brief, Gary did plenty to show he induced, or actively encouraged, copyright infringement on a massive scale. The court found that Gary’s websites encouraged infringement, while also pointing out that Gary personally knew and encouraged infringing behavior.

The court additionally found that Gary Fung’s defense did little or nothing to counter the entertainment industry’s claim that Fung was inducing copyright infringement. According to Judge Wilson, “The material facts supporting Plaintiffs’ claims are almost wholly unrebutted. Generally, Defendants’ rest their case on legal arguments and meritless evidentiary objections, and offer little of their own evidence that directly addressed Plaintiffs’ factual assertions. Accordingly, summary judgment is appropriate in the present case.”

Most damning it appears was isoHunt’s Top List of movies. The court found that that by having links to popular movies, many of which belonged to the big Hollywood studios, clearly met the criteria for inducing copyright infringement.

“The clearest instance of Defendants’ solicitation of infringing activity is the “Box Office Movies” feature of Defendants’ Isohunt site…each of these pages contained “upload torrent” links allowing users to upload dot-torrent files for the films.”

Additionally, the court used Fung’s own actions and words against him. In the summary judgment, the court found that Gary actively helped users with technical issues that often involved copyrighted works.

“..in response to an Isohunt user who posted a message stating he did not know how to watch a file containing Lord of the Rings: Return of the King which he had recently downloaded, Defendant Fung provided directions on how to extract and play the video file.”

The court also used the design of Gary’s site against him as well. The court noted the similarities between the meta tags featured on Fung’s websites to the same tactic used by Usenet.com.

“Plaintiffs note that the meta tags used on Fung’s websites often included the term “warez” as a header for every page. (Arista Records LLC v. Usenet.com, Inc.)”

Finally, the court summarized this case “old wine in a new bottle.” There doesn’t appear to be any material change to isoHunt.com – since Gary is based in Canada and this ruling was in California, he is not obligated to remove the site. All parties will reconvene in January to presumably discuss sanctions.

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