Last year the BitTorrent search engine isoHunt lost in court against the MPAA. A Californian court ruled that isoHunt was guilty of inducing copyright infringement and granted summary judgment. IsoHunt, however, does not intend to crack so easily as it sets course towards an appeal and launches a ‘Lite’ version of the site.
Early 2006, the MPAA issued a complaint against isoHunt and its sister site Torrentbox, claiming that owner Gary Fung operated file-sharing services and profited from copyright infringement.
The lengthy legal procedure that followed came to a temporary end December last year, when a US Federal Court in California ruled that isoHunt was indeed guilty of violating US copyright law. Since the circumstances of the case were so similar to earlier ones involving Napster and Grokster, the judge decided there was no need to have a full trial and instead granted a summary judgment against isoHunt.
That was not the end of the case though. Last month at the status conference the judge opened the door for an interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “Before we appeal however, we must undergo injunction motions and that’s what we are doing now,” Gary Fung told TorrentFreak.
The MPAA has already filed its injunction and suggested that isoHunt should filter its search results based on generic keywords that may be used to describe copyrighted titles. In a response isoHunt has filed an injunction stating that such a feature is a bad idea for several reasons.
“The Plaintiffs’ [MPAA studios] proposed injunction and its keyword type filter, in our view, raises serious issues on the balance between freedom of speech, fair use and copyright protectionism. Such a keyword filter is also impossible to implement if it’s to have any sort of precision, nor can it avoid conflict with free use cases, free commerce, or extra-territorial law,” Fung said.
“If it were actually to be mandated and put into operation, plaintiffs’ proposed filter would make Swiss cheese out of the dictionary,” isoHunt’s lawyer Ira Rothken writes in the injunction, arguing that a keyword filter would also censor a lot of legal content.
“If a new TV show title is based on a popular phrase that is already in the name of an amateur film or Linux program, distribution of the film or program will be blocked,” the lawyer added.
Instead of filtering isoHunt proposes to use a Lite version of isoHunt instead, a version of the site that no longer contains any of the red flags for inducement that were found at Summary Judgment. In other words, the ‘lite’ version of the site is no different than search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, except that it’s limited to torrent files.
“Should the Court accept a version of isoHunt Lite during the injunction phase, it may become the required interface for our US users,” Gary Fung told TorrentFreak.
It is noted in the injunction that Google and Yahoo! and other search engines can serve as torrent search engines also, and that most of the files that can be found via isoHunt are indexed by these other search engines as well. Gary Fung even conducted a test on a sample of torrent files to prove this point.
“This test shows that 95% of the torrent files indexed on isoHunt are equally available through the main search engines,” isoHunt’s lawyer writes to the court.
With the Lite version of isoHunt Gary Fung hopes to prevent the site’s closure in the US. If the Court somehow rules that it’s still violating copyright law, one has to wonder what implications this has for Google, Yahoo! and other search engines.
The case continues.