Isohunt liable for inducing copyright infringement

A California District Court granted members of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) summary judgment in a copyright infringement action against Isohunt, one the largest bittorrent sites, and four other sites.

The MPPA alleged that the users had infringed their copyright by downloading copyrighted content free of charge and without the MPAA’s authorization. The MPAA contended that the defendants had facilitated their users’ infringement and were liable under three secondary liability theories: inducement to infringe, material contribution to infringement, and vicarious liability. The district court premised the defendants’ liability on the inducement doctrine because the “defendants’ inducement liability is overwhelming clear.”

The district court quoted the now famouse “inducment” language from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster  “one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps to taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting act of infringement by other parties.”

The district court went on to say that “liability may attach even if the defendant does not induce specific acts of infringement.” Instead, the court can “infer […] a patently illegal objective from statements and actions showing what [the defendant’s] objective was.”  The defendants attempted to bring a “safe harbor” DMCA defense, but ultimately failed.

Of interest was the court’s examination of fact that Isohunt is hosted in Canada.  However, for purposes of secondary liability, the infrigment was in the U.S., and therefore subject to jurisdiction there.  Read the analysis, and the whole case, at Michael Geist’s website.  According to sources, an appeal is planned.

Gary Fung, operator of Isohunt, has taken another tactic and asked the BC Supreme Court in Canada to resolve that the bittorrent web sites he operates do not infringe copyright, under Canadian copyright law.  A trial has been ordered to decide this question. See the latest here.


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