A file-sharing site that's been in a legal tussle with Hollywood for years lost another round Thursday.
A federal appeals court in California upheld a lower-court ruling that file-sharing website IsoHunt contributed to copyright infringement by its users and that the site was not protected by the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Those provisions protect sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers, from sued for copyright infringement when their users post protected material to those sites.
"[O]ne can infringe a copyright through culpable actions resulting in the impermissible reproduction of copyrighted expression, whether those actions involve making available a device or product or providing some service used in accomplishing the infringement," Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote in the panel's decision.
A permanent injunction was issued in May 2010 against IsoHunt founder Gary Fung and his websites, which popular among movie-sharing buffs, in May 2010. That injunction was challenged by Fung and that challenge was what the appeals court rejected.
"[E]ven giving Fung the benefit of all doubts by tripling the margins of error in the expert's reports, Columbia [Pictures] would still have such overwhelming evidence that any reasonable jury would have to conclude that the vastly predominant use of Fung's services has been to infringe copyright," Berzon noted.
The court also found that Fung was not protected by the DMCA's safe harbor provisions because he was neither a "service provider," as defined by the law, and that he had knowledge of the infringements taking place at his sites and did nothing about them.
" [T]he record is replete with instances of Fung actively encouraging infringement, by urging his users to both upload and download particular copyrighted works, providing assistance to those seeking to watch copyrighted films, and helping his users burn copyrighted material onto DVDs," Berzon wrote.
The court noted that IsoHunt was a haven for copyright pirates.
Reaction to the appeals court's action
Hollywood's win in the appeals court was hailed by its trade group the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
"Today's ruling represents an important step toward realizing the enormous potential of the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and job creation--including millions of workers in the creative industries," said Henry Hoberman, MPAA senior executive vice president and global general counsel, said in a statement.
Hoberman added: "This ruling affirms a core principle of copyright law: Those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers and will be held accountable for their illegal actions."
More dire consequences from the decision were seen by Fung's attorney, Ira Rothken. He claimed in a tweet that the decision will ban "trackers"--servers that index files on the Internet--and puts a large portion of the Internet at risk.
He also said he will seek an "en banc" hearing on the case, which means the entire appeals court would review the appeal, instead of just a three-judge panel.