As one of the ten largest file-sharing sites on the Internet, Hotfile has become a prime target for Hollywood.
February last year the inevitable happened when the MPAA filed a lawsuit against the file-hosting service. Since then there have been dozens of court filings and Hotfile even sued MPAA member Warner Bros. right back for allegedly abusing its copyright takedown tools.
This week the MPAA took an important step by filing a motion for summary judgment at a US District Court in Florida. With this move the movie studios hope to avoid a lengthy trial and have Hotfile shut down as quickly as possible.
In court papers Hotfile is described as a service built around copyright infringement. The movie studios use the recent indictment against Megaupload as leverage and argue that both services are identical.
“Hotfile’s business model is indistinguishable from that of the website Megaupload, which recently was indicted criminally for engaging in the very same conduct as Hotfile. Defendants even admit that they formed Hotfile ‘to compete with’ Megaupload.”
The MPAA further highlights similarities with other file-sharing services that have lost legal battles in US courts.
“Hotfile is responsible for billions of infringing downloads of copyrighted works, including plaintiffs’ valuable motion picture and television properties. As with other adjudicated pirate services that came before it, from Napster and Grokster to Isohunt and Limewire, Hotfile exists to profit from copyright infringement,” they write.
“More than 90% of the files downloaded from Hotfile are copyright infringing, and nearly every Hotfile user is engaged in copyright infringement.”
The latter statistic comes from research conducted by University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Waterman on behalf of the movie studios. Waterman concluded that 90.2% of all daily downloads on Hotfile are infringing, opposed to 5.3% that are clearly non-infringing.
Aside from pointing out the massive infringement on Hotfile, the crux of the case is whether the file-hoster is protected under the DMCA’s safe-harbor provision. According to the MPAA this is not the case.
Among other things, the studios point out that Hotfile previously failed to disconnect repeat infringers and that Hotfile employees actively induced copyright infringement. Not meeting these requirements means they have no right to safe-harbor protection.
The MPAA’s motion is supported by a slew of exhibits ranging from internal emails where Hotfile staff assist users with downloading infringing files, to forum discussions about the affiliate program, and testimonies from anti-piracy chiefs at the movie studios.
When combined, all evidence leads the MPAA to conclude that Hotfile should be shut down and the studios awarded damages.
Whatever the outcome, the case is expected to set an important precedent for the future of similar cloud hosting services that operate in the United States.