Following legal pressure brought by the MPAA, BitTorrent search engine isoHunt redirected all visitors from the United States to a Lite version of the site in April.
With this action, isoHunt hoped to prevent a judicial order which would require the site to implement a mandatory filter and remove torrents based on a list of ‘banned words’. However, despite these changes the US District Court of California still issued a permanent injunction against isoHunt in May.
Although the lite version didn’t change the decision of the District Court, it did impact isoHunt’s traffic volume of visitors from the United States.
As with most changes, many of the US users expressed unhappiness and complained from the get go. In the months that followed it turned out that the complaints were not those of a tiny minority simply resisting change. Since April, isoHunt has lost most of its US visitors due to the new look and this is one of the main reasons why the popular torrent search engine has now reverted to its original interface.
“We lost over half of our US traffic,” isoHunt owner Gary Fung told TorrentFreak, adding that he’s now experimenting with a look that most users are happy with, while abiding with the court order. The key issue here is that the isoHunt website should not induce copyright infringement any more than other search engines such as Google. This was the main point of the lite interface: that the isoHunt search engine can be made to look and work exactly the same way as general web search engines, such as Google or Yahoo.
To most US visitors the isoHunt homepage now has a familiar look again, but there are some differences with the site the rest of the world sees. The ‘top searches’ that used to be listed on the site are gone for example, because one could potentially see this as inducement.
isoHunt appealed the permanent injunction of the District Court this summer and is now awaiting the appeal at the Ninth Circuit Appeal Court. Both the MPAA and isoHunt have filed their motions in their legal battle that will soon enter its fifth year. With this appeal, isoHunt hopes that the mandatory keyword filter will be dropped.
“I find it absurd that we are required to keyword filter which ironically all search engines in countries like China are required to do due to political censorship, but isoHunt would be the only search engine serving traffic to US users required to do similar filtering..,” Fung wrote to the Ninth Circuit Appeal Court.
Instead, a filter based on ‘infringing’ hashes is more appropriate according to the isoHunt founder. A similar system is already in use for a partnership the site has with the US Attorney General to ban child porn.
The Ninth Circuit Appeal Court has now to decide whether the permanent injunction will stay in place or not. This decision will be a crucial one to the future of isoHunt and possibly other BitTorrent sites.