MPAA Demands Hotfile Data From Google, Search Engine Refuses

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In yet another episode in Hollywood's year-long legal battle with one of the world's biggest cyberlocker services, the MPAA has now drawn Google into the dispute. The MPAA says that Google holds valuable information on Hotfile and should produce it, but the search giant is refusing without the file-hoster's consent. Hotfile says 'no' on the basis that the deadline for discovery expired last year.

In February 2011, the MPAA announced that it would be suing Hotfile, one of the Internet’s most popular cyberlocker services.

“In less than two years, Hotfile has become one of the 100 most trafficked sites in the world. That is a direct result of the massive digital theft that Hotfile promotes,” the movie industry group said.

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.

The MPAA wants to prove that Hotfile had a business model centered around piracy and one in which the file-hoster encouraged users of its service to upload copyrighted motion pictures and TV shows to Hotfile servers and then link back to them using third-party sites.

In recent weeks, more and more court filings in the case have been marked restricted/sealed but this week an interesting one was made available. According to Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Columbia and Warner, an urgent discovery hearing is required to cut through what is described by them as “a procedural morass that is prejudicing Plaintiffs’ ability to complete important discovery in this matter.”

The problem has its roots in August 2011 when Hotfile was ordered to hand the MPAA mountains of data including information it holds on the files it hosts, the company’s users and its many affiliates.

But the MPAA didn’t receive all of the data it was expecting. While Hotfile said it had no objection to producing any of the data it holds, it claimed that handing over everything requested was impossible since it did not carry some of the information.

Determined to obtain the data anyway, on December 6th 2011 the MPAA served a subpoena on Google to obtain access to Hotfile’s Google Analytics account which can show the sites driving traffic to Hotfile and the host’s most popular pages.

But Google said that absent Hotfile’s consent, it would not supply the data to the MPAA. In turn, Hotfile refused to give consent or hand over the data now since the discovery date deadline, December 23rd 2011, has now passed.

The MPAA insists that the information could be made available via a simple “push of a button” and is now asking the court to order Hotfile to either produce it, or authorize Google to do so urgently. The MPAA are in a rush because at the end of next week they will file for summary judgment against Hotfile and to do that effectively they need the traffic data in advance.

According to court documents, a mediation meeting that took place January 11th 2012 between the studios and Hotfile’s owners ended without the parties reaching settlement.


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