The CRIA is known for taking on BitTorrent sites. In the past year they have threatened Demonoid and other BitTorrent sites, and taken legal action against QuebecTorrent. Now, they have set their sights on isoHunt, one of the largest BitTorrent sites on the Internet, but this might just backfire.
In May 2008, isoHunt received a Cease and Desist letter from the CRIA, in which they demanded that isoHunt founder Gary Fung should take the site offline. If Fung didn’t comply, the CRIA said it would pursue legal action, and demand $20,000 for each sound recording the site has infringed.
A similar tactic worked against Demonoid, but the isoHunt founder didn’t back down so easily. “We have since tried to come to an understanding, but just as with the MPAA in the US, they ignored our offers of cooperation by the take down of .torrent links to their content files, so long as they provide sufficient identification,” Gary Fung told TorrentFreak.
Fung has pointed out that, like most other BitTorrent sites, isoHunt has a Copyright Policy, and takes down .torrent files when they receive an appropriate request. The CRIA simply ignored this, even though they have sent correct takedown notices to isoHunt before (and isoHunt complied), and continued to threaten with legal action.
As an act of self-defense, isoHunt has decided to sue the CRIA instead, and today Fung will file a petition (pdf) to ask the Court of British Columbia to confirm that isoHunt –and sister sites Torrentbox and Podtropolis– do not infringe copyright. “This is our preemptive strike with a narrowly defined petition for Declaratory Relief that we do not infringe, in anticipation they are going to file their own lawsuit that we do infringe (their copyright),” Fung told TorrentFreak.
“Our petition summarizes BitTorrent technology, its open nature and a whole ecosystem of websites and operators that has developed around it, that CRIA does not own copyright to all files distributed over BitTorrent or on isoHunt websites, and we seek legal validation that we can continue to innovate within this emerging BitTorrent ecosystem on the Internet.”
“Think of this as a follow up to the QuebecTorrent case,” Fung says. “We intend to take this all the way up to the Canadian Supreme Court unless CRIA settles with us out of court in any reasonable way,” Fung added.
This is the first case worldwide where a court will be asked to decide whether .torrent files, and BitTorrent search engines in particular, are infringing copyright or not. Among other things, isoHunt argues that they are just a search engine, like Google, and that they have no control over the files they find elsewhere on the web. The site is indexing other BitTorrent trackers and indexers, without human intervention, and allows its users to find content that is scattered across the web.
So, should BitTorrent search engines be held liable for the .torrent files that might point to copyrighted data? If so, what does this mean for other search engines, and sites such as YouTube? This landmark case might be the one to define how files can be distributed online, let’s hope the Court of British Columbia will make the right decision.