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isoHunt to go offline after long running legal battle reaches its conclusion

By | Published on Friday 18 October 2013


One of the entertainment industry’s original and longest running file-sharing battles is nearing an end, as it was announced yesterday that the US movie industry had reached an agreement with Gary Fung, the man behind isoHunt, one of the longest-running and most prolific file-sharing services on the net.

Originally launched at the start of 2003, isoHunt – like LimeWire – was one of the few high profile North American file-sharing services to continue operating after the landmark MGM v Grokster Supreme Court ruling in 2005, which basically confirmed that the classic excuses provided by the operators of file-sharing services – “but we’re not actually involved in the transfer of content” and “but our service has legitimate uses too” – couldn’t circumvent liability for copyright infringement in the eyes of American law.

Fung is Canadian, so found himself in conflict with both the US and Canadian entertainment giants (at one point he sued the Canadian record industy), though – whereas the music business led in the legal assault against LimeWire – it was the Motion Picture Association Of America’s litigation that dominated in the fight against isoHunt, even if it took over six years for that legal action to deliver yesterday’s result.

For years Fung insisted his service wasn’t liable for infringement, though mainly by using the ‘transfer of content’ and ‘legitimate use’ excuses, so his long term prospects never looked great. And yesterday it was revealed that Fung had finally agreed to wind down his operation, as well as committing to pay the US movie industry damages of $110 million. Both parties submitted a request to the courts to conclude the long running legal battle, though there is still some legal technicalities to get through just yet.

Speaking to TorrentFreak last night, Fung said: “It’s sad to see my baby go. But I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 10.5 years of isoHunt has been a long journey by any business definition, and forever in internet start-up time. I think one worry I want to address is at no time have I compromised privacy of any user on isoHunt, in terms of your IP addresses or emails”.

Needless to say, this resolution of such a long-running legal battle meant for a happy day at the Hollywood trade body. MPAA chief Chris Dodd told reporters: “Today’s settlement is a major step forward in realising the enormous potential of the internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and innovation. It also sends a strong message that 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”.

Although the legal battle was led by the movie industry, the imminent demise of isoHunt will be welcomed by the music business too. The Canadian record industry’s Music Canada organisation has already issued a statement, telling reporters: “The closure of isoHunt’s worldwide operations announced today is a landmark victory for the creative community in Canada and around the globe”.

Noting their own legal wranglings with Fung, the statement goes on: “The members of Music Canada had united with other music companies in an amended pleading in the Canadian action against isoHunt Web Technologies Inc and its owner Gary Fung. As one of the largest unauthorised BitTorrent sites in the world, isoHunt has been profiting from the work of creators by enabling millions of infringing acts and making a vast variety of unlicensed music, film and other creative content available for instant download. We welcome its closure”.