Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. v. Fung

Columbia Pictures sued isoHunt founder for copyright infringement; Fung found liable, ordered to pay $110m, setting precedent for holding website owners accountable.

Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. v. Fung was a lawsuit filed in 2006 against Gary Fung, the founder of the popular BitTorrent website, The case was filed by a group of movie studios, including Columbia Pictures, alleging that Fung's website facilitated copyright infringement by allowing users to download and share copyrighted movies and TV shows without permission.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and it quickly gained widespread attention as one of the most significant cases involving online copyright infringement. The case was closely watched by both the entertainment industry and the technology community, as it raised important questions about the limits of online copyright protection and the responsibility of website owners for the actions of their users.

The lawsuit alleged that Fung had built a business model around enabling the infringement of copyrighted works. The isoHunt website provided a search engine that allowed users to find and download copies of movies, TV shows, and other copyrighted content through the BitTorrent protocol. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing system that enables users to share large files quickly and efficiently by downloading small pieces from multiple sources simultaneously.

The movie studios argued that Fung and his website were liable for copyright infringement because they knowingly provided a platform for users to download and share copyrighted works without permission. The studios claimed that isoHunt was responsible for millions of dollars in lost revenue, and they sought damages and an injunction to shut down the website.

Fung argued that isoHunt was simply a search engine, similar to Google or other popular search engines, and that he had no control over the content that users shared on the site. Fung also argued that isoHunt was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which provides a safe harbor for website owners who promptly remove infringing content when notified by copyright holders.

The case went through several rounds of legal proceedings, including a preliminary injunction that ordered Fung to stop operating isoHunt. In 2009, the case went to trial, and a federal jury found Fung liable for copyright infringement and awarded the movie studios $110 million in damages.

Fung appealed the decision, arguing that the damages were excessive and that the trial judge had made several errors in instructing the jury. In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision and damages, ruling that isoHunt was not protected by the DMCA because Fung had encouraged users to upload and share copyrighted content.

The case set an important precedent for online copyright law, clarifying that website owners can be held liable for the actions of their users if they encourage or facilitate copyright infringement. The case also highlighted the need for stronger enforcement of online copyright protection, as well as the importance of creating a balance between protecting intellectual property rights and promoting innovation and free expression on the internet.

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