IsoHunt was mine, and presumably many others, first run in with torrents and file sharing. Many have moved on, but the MPAA just couldn’t leave it alone. After launching a lawsuit against the site in 2006, the site’s founder, Gary Fung, and the MPAA went back and forth in court for more than 6 years. Now it’s all over and Fung didn’t win.
Wired reports that Fung has reached a settlement with the MPAA in which he’ll pay $110 million in damages. As part of the settlement, he is also shutting the site down for good. The site, which currently has over 13 million active torrents, isn’t down just yet, but Fung has seven days to shut it down.
With the announcement of the settlement, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said that bullying a file sharing site into a settlement that it can’t possibly afford is somehow a win for innovation:
“Today’s settlement is a major step forward in realizing 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.”
Now, I’m not saying that piracy is innovation, but Dodd’s statement is like the pot calling the kettle black. The MPAA chairman singing the praises of the Internet as a bastion of innovation for the film industry is disingenuous as the group he oversees has done everything in its power to resist the future that file sharing gave users in instant gratification.
In fact, a study from earlier this week found that the film industry is to blame for piracy, not file-sharing sites. Out of the top 10 most pirated films over the last three weeks, not a single one was available via a legal streaming service. Consumers demand instant gratification in the Internet era, and streaming is the easiest way to deliver that. Sure, some new films are available for digital purchase, but the hoops one has to jump through to purchase and watch said films make piracy the much more appealing option.
I’m not saying all this to defend IsoHunt, nor do I defend other file sharing sites like The Pirate Bay. What I do defend is the consumer, and the MPAA alongside other other copyright maximalist groups are doing the consumer no favors by going after file sharing sites. All their doing is desperately clinging to a business model that should have died over a decade ago. If they really cared about innovation, they would have fully embraced services like Netflix while reaching out to their biggest fans who usually happen to also be the biggest pirates.
Oh, and as for Fung’s next move, he has submitted a petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court. If it ends up like other file sharing cases, the SCOTUS will kick it back to the lower courts. We might get lucky, however, as Fung feels that IsoHunt is a search engine and that this ruling will affect services like Google and Bing as well.