U.S. Court: Isohunt has to Shut Down

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Judge Stephen Wilson of the US District Court of California, Southern District issued a permanent injunction against the popular torrent site Isohunt yesterday, forcing the site and its owner Garry Fung to immediately prevent access to virtually all Hollywood movies.

The injunction theoretically leaves the door open for the site to deploy a strict filtering system, but its terms are so broad that Isohunt has little choice but to shut down or at the very least block all U.S. visitors. Fung could be held in contempt of court if he doesn’t comply with the injunction, and he could possibly be thrown into jail.

The MPAA’s member studios had sued Isohunt in 2006. Judge Wilson sided with the studios in December, issuing a summary verdict that found Isohunt guilty of inducing copyright infringement. Isohunt responded to the verdict by redirecting U.S.-based users to a slimmed-down site that’s meant to resemble the layout and features of a search engine like Google. Wilson now found that this is not enough. From the verdict:

“Defendants’ proposed ‘primal’ or ‘lite’ website contains all of the same indexing and searching functions as the original websites, only with a different interface for the users to operate.”

The verdict also mentions that Isohunt clocks about 2.5 million unique monthly visitors from the U.S. alone.

So what can Isohunt and Fung do to comply with the injunction? The verdict states that they have to cease “hosting, indexing, linking to, or otherwise providing access to any (torrent) or similar files” that can be used to download the studios’ movies and TV shows. Studios have to supply Isohunt with a list of titles of works they own, and Isohunt has to start blocking those torrents within 24 hours.

However, we’re not just talking about a simple DMCA-like takedown procedure. Isohunt has to actively prevent those titles from being traded in the future, and even filter out any metadata that could suggest or encourage infringement. The decision helpfully supplied a list of terms that are a no-no, including DVD Rips, Cam, Telesync, and Screener.

The injunction also bars Fung and his company from “soliciting or targeting a user base generally understood, in substantial part, to be engaging in infringement of, or seeking to infringe, Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.” In other words: Isohunt would have to stop catering to file sharers, which is essentially the same as saying it has to cease operations.

Isohunt hasn’t said yet how it intends to respond to the injunction.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: The Quest to Monetize File Sharing (subscription required)

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