The massively popular 10-year-old BitTorrent website isoHunt has one week before it must close permanently, in accordance with a settlement with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reached on Thursday.
The announcement marks the end of a 7-year-long lawsuit between isoHunt’s founder, Gary Fung, and the MPAA, which alleged that isoHunt and several other sites operated by Fung, including Podtroplois, TorrentBox and ed2k-it, enabled copyright infringement. Fung had been scheduled to appear in court in Los Angeles in November, but according to Forbes, he “threw in the towel” on Thursday, “admitting defeat and agreeing to pay the smaller – but still huge – sum of $110 million.”
The agreement also specifies that Fung is barred from “further profiting from the infringement of MPAA member studio content.”
The settlement comes five months after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in support of the MPAA, stating, “there is more than enough unrebutted evidence in the summary judgment record to prove Fung offered his services with the object of promoting their use to infringe copyrighted material.”
The court also ruled that Fung did not qualify for protection by the “safe harbor” provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, because he had “red flag” knowledge of copyright infringement, and because the website made money from advertising.
“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,” Fung wrote on his blog in a post titled “Hello, Brave New World.” “I’ve done the best I could pushing the social benefits of BitTorrent and file sharing, the searching and sharing of culture itself, but it’s time for me to move on to new software ideas and projects.”
The ruling, which was published online by Wired, stipulates that Fung has until Oct. 23 to shutter the website. Chris Dodd, chairman of the MPAA, issued a statement on Thursday, claiming that the suit’s outcome would bolster creative enterprise.
“Today’s settlement is a major step forward in realizing the enormous potential of the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and innovation,” Dodd said. “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.”
“The successful outcome of this landmark lawsuit will also help preserve jobs and protect the tens of thousands of businesses in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by sites like isoHunt,” he added.
But some BitTorrent proponents have scoffed at the MPAA’s legal victory, calling it relatively meaningless. TorrentFreak blogger Ernesto told Forbes that the outcome was a “paper victory.”
“The impact of isoHunt’s closure will be pretty much non-existent,” he said. “Torrent sites have come and gone for more than a decade and these legal battles don’t seem to impress most other site owners. Four years ago, the MPAA won a similar case against TorrentSpy and very little changed after that.”
For his part, Fung has fervently defended isoHunt’s mission. In an interview with Wikinews in 2006, less than a month after he was notified of the lawsuit, he maintained that isoHunt did not provide a service that was meaningfully different than that offered by major search engines like Google.
“We are all search engines, only designed for different markets,” he said. “'Torrents,' for example are metadata pointers that describe and link to resources on BitTorrent swarms. Google and isoHunt are different only in the forms of links and types of data they index. Both serve the purpose of organizing information on open networks on the internet (WWW and P2P), making them useful and searchable.”