Google, MPAA and isoHunt Clash in Court

Last year the BitTorrent search engine isoHunt filed an appeal in their case with the MPAA. With the appeal isoHunt hopes to overturn a District Court ruling that obligates the site to operate an MPAA-approved censorship filter. The case is still ongoing and the Appeal Court has now granted Google the opportunity to chime in as well, leading to critical comments from both the MPAA and isoHunt.

googleTwo months ago Google got involved in a BitTorrent case for the first time in its history. The company took an interest in the ongoing legal action between isoHunt and the MPAA, fearing that the standing injunction has the potential to damage Google and other web services.

In February Google filed an amicus brief (third party testimony) at the Appeal Court, in the hope that the court would consider Google’s opinion on the case. The MPAA was against a Google contribution, but despite these concerns the Appeal Court has now allowed the search engine’s testimony to be added to the case.

Although Google did not dispute isoHunt’s liability in their testimony, the company stated that some of the reasoning in the District Court verdict went too far, and Google wants to see it scrapped in the appeal.

“While in agreement with the result reached in this case, Google is concerned that some of the reasoning offered by the district court goes too far and would upset the careful balance between copyright protection and technological innovation struck by the Supreme Court and Congress. Particularly because this case is not a hard one, it should be decided narrowly,” Google wrote.

The search giant addresses various issues they feel are not needed to arrive at the verdict, but can negatively impact other services on the Internet. Several of these conclusions are the result of suggestions made by the movie studios, which Google claims are misplaced and incorrect.

Google wants to address these issues because they fear it may otherwise lead to a negative outcome for themselves.

The Appeal Court agreed to accept and consider the amicus brief last month. This is the first time that Google have got involved in a BitTorrent case which is significant itself, but interestingly enough neither the MPAA nor isoHunt are happy with Google’s submission.

In a response to Google’s brief, isoHunt says it agrees with Google’s arguments that the District Court verdict is full of “fatal errors” and “omissions”. However, it doesn’t agree with Google’s conclusion that isoHunt is liable for copyright infringements by some of their users. isoHunt’s lawyer therefore asks the court to reject the latter arguments.

“Defendants submit that Google’s confusing arguments and fallacious reasoning should not obscure the importance of issues presented by this case. Defendants have proposed a practical way to deal with such issues; but Google, like plaintiffs, propose nothing other than affirmance of a factually flawed and legally ill-founded District Court Decision.”

The MPAA also responded to Google’s testimony, and was even less pleased to see the company chime in.

“Google is not a disinterested amicus. Google itself is a defendant in suits charging certain of its business units which intentionally promote infringement. Google’s arguments as amicus reflect its litigation interests in obtaining a legal ruling that facilitation of infringement, even if shown to be intentional, may still be immune from copyright liability.”

The MPAA’s legal team then goes on to refute nearly all arguments made by Google. The search engine wants to scrap all of the District Court’s conclusions regarding liability that could eventually be used against Google, but the movie companies clearly disagree.

“The Court should reject Google’s pleas for immunities for businesses that intentionally facilitate copyright infringement,” MPAA’s lawyers conclude.

Although Google weighed in on the isoHunt vs. MPAA case in self-interest, the mere fact that they got involved signifies the importance of the case. To some it may ‘just’ be a dispute between a BitTorrent site and the MPAA but if affirmed the District Court ruling may have far-reaching consequences for hundreds of other web-services.

After filing the amicus brief Google’s role in the case has likely ended, but isoHunt and the MPAA will continue their battle in court.

There’s a hearing planned in early May where we will find out more about where the case is heading. Interestingly, this hearing is scheduled on the same day and in the same court as Veoh’s appeal hearing. Another DMCA case, but one where the service provider was not held liable.

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