The MPAA is hoping to get up to $750 million in damages from Canada-based torrent site isoHunt. The movie studio group argues that such a high sum would not only punish the site’s owner, but make others think twice before they start a similar website. “The jury should award an amount of damages that not only will punish defendants but deter defendants and those like him,” MPAA says.
For more than seven years isoHunt and the MPAA have been battling it out in court, and it’s still not over yet.
After the 2010 District Court ruling against the torrent site was affirmed earlier this year, the case now moves towards a trial from which the movie industry hopes to win a substantial sum in statutory damages.
Both the MPAA and isoHunt have been back in court during the past few weeks. In a recent hearing MPAA lawyer Steven Fabrizio explained how much compensation they’re aiming for, and how they hope to convince the jury.
While the isoHunt case initially listed just 44 copyrighted titles, the MPAA has reserved the right to add more at a later stage, and according to a recent hearing this could increase to some 5,000 titles.
“Defendant’s website infringed virtually the entire library of motion pictures and television programs that our clients own. In the damages proceeding, as a matter of practicalities, there would probably be three to 5,000, which is probably substantially less than the tens of thousands that it could be,” Fabrizio told the court.
For each of these movies and TV-shows the jury or court then has to pick an appropriate figure for compensation, somewhere between $750 and $150,000.
“If this issue goes to the jury, the largest issue in this case — the jury will be charged that they have a range of damages they can award, between $750 per work; and if the court finds that defendant’s conduct is willful — and we believe the court has effectively already found that with your liability findings — the maximum per work is $150,000,” the MPAA’s Fabrizio explains.
Once a decision is made in respect of damages, isoHunt will face a bill somewhere between $3,000,000 and $750,000,000, depending on the figure per work reached. These dazzling numbers are not all that unrealistic either, as the MPAA previously won a $110 million judgment against the TorrentSpy site.
As the MPAA is talking about statutory damages there is no need to show that the studios suffered any losses. According to the lawyer the high number they’re shooting for is also in part meant to deter others from operating similar sites.
“We would argue the defendant’s conduct in this case — as found by Your Honor and affirmed by the Ninth Circuit — is particularly egregious. This was not inadvertent copyright infringement, it was intentional, willful copyright infringement, and that the jury should award an amount of damages that not only will punish defendants but deter defendants and those like him,” Fabrizio told the court.
Of course, isoHunt still has to be found guilty. The evidence the MPAA plans to rely on mostly consists of screenshots and the anonymized server logs isoHunt had to turn over in 2007. The movie studios will use this information to show that copyrighted works were downloaded from the site, through .torrent files.
“Plaintiffs have 27 days of server data from the Fung Websites showing millions of downloads of dot torrent files. For this data, Plaintiffs simply need to identify the dot torrent files corresponding to their copyrighted works, a straightforward, albeit time-consuming process,” the MPAA says.
They hope that the court will then decide that isoHunt is indeed guilty of direct copyright infringement, but isoHunt’s legal team contests that notion.
“Plaintiffs ignore the requirement that, in order to prove direct infringement, they must show that ‘United states users either uploaded or downloaded copyrighted works’,” isoHunt’s lawyer informs the court.
“Of course, the mere fact that dot-torrent files may have been downloaded by someone, somewhere in the world, is irrelevant to show damages. To show a relevant underlying direct infringement, Plaintiffs must establish that Plaintiffs works at issue were actually downloaded by at least one United States user.”
Apart from the location issue, isoHunt’s lawyer further adds that the suggested evidence does not show that the people who downloaded the files actually visited the torrent site. The torrents may have also been downloaded though Google’s search results.
The court now has to decide how to move forward, but the MPAA’s comments make it clear that if they have the chance, they will try to get the highest damages award possible.
If that does happen then the movie studios won’t rest until isoHunt owner Gary Fung is bankrupt. As the MPAA stated a few years back, they are willing to hold a judgment over Fung’s head for the rest of his life.
“If Gary Fung creates a legitimate website, we’ll be there. If he sells that company for $100 million, we’ll be there. For the rest of his life we’ll be able to pursue that judgment,” Fabrizio said.