Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Torrent Search Engines Unlawful, U.S. Judge Says

The operator of a popular BitTorrent search site said Monday he will likely challenge last week’s landmark decision by a U.S. judge declaring such sites unlawful and no different from conventional peer-to-peer piracy services.

“We do think from our preliminary review there are a number of issues for appeal,” said Ira Rothken, attorney for torrent search engine ISO Hunt, the defendant in the case.

The long-awaited decision, while not unexpected, was the first in the United States in which a federal judge found that BitTorrent search engines are an unlawful avenue (.pdf) to free movies, music, videogames and software. A contrary ruling likely would have sparked a gold rush of BitTorrent prospectors in the United States.

Targeted in the case was Gary Fung, a Canadian who operates ISO Hunt and other torrent search engines. Among other things, he argued that U.S. laws did not attach to him, and if they did, that his websites were protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In a lawsuit brought by the Motion Picture Association of America, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles ruled: “Defendants’ technology is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle.”

Fung’s “intent to induce infringement is overwhelming and beyond reasonable dispute.”

In terms of infringement, the judge said ISO Hunt was no different than Napster and Grokster. But he said the BitTorrent technology was far superior and “obviously increases the potential for copyright infringement.”


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