Bit Torrent website IsoHunt.com, a popular website that specializes in downloadable content, is being shut down following a court settlement.
The site, which was founded in 2003, was extremely popular with users. Some 7.4 million viewers had visited the site within three years of it going live. At its peak, Isohunt received an average of 40 million searches a month.
In response to the California court’s ruling, IsoHunt’s founder Gary Fung wrote on his blog that “its sad to see my baby go”.
The problems began when a group of major corporations, including Disney, Paramount and 20th Century Fox, accused the site of copyright infringement. A large portion of IsoHunt’s Torrent files contained copyrighted material, such as movies, TV shows and music albums.
The court case has taken more than 7 years to reach its conclusion, but a decision has finally been made.
Mr Fung has been ordered to pay $110m (£68m) to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), but since neither he, nor his company has access to funds of this kind, it is estimated that the MPAA will only receive $2-$4m from Fung.
It should be noted, however, that IsoHunt did not actually upload any pirated material. According to Mr. Fung, the IsoHunt users were ultimately responsible for what they made available for download, as opposed to the site itself, which merely served as a directory for available content.
Nevertheless, MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd was pleased with the Court’s decision, saying, “The successful outcome of this landmark lawsuit will also will 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.”
Fung has argued elsewhere that, if the entertainment industry was to fully embrace digital media (for example by lowering prices and offering simultaneous digital releases), it could easily render sites like his obsolete.
The website www.piracydata.org, which is run by a team of researchers from Virginia, US, has suggested that, of the top 10 most pirated movies of the week, half were unavailable for legal download and none were available for streaming, making piracy the only option for viewers wishing to watch these films over the Internet.
But how damaging is online piracy to Hollywood’s profit margins? The 2008 James Cameron movie ‘Avatar’, for example, has been listed as ‘the most pirated film of all time’, after being downloaded something like 21million times worldwide. However, the movie still garnered $600m in DVD sales in the US alone, which is not taking rentals into account (which garnered a further $57m, again, just in the US). This indicates that a considerable number of people are downloading the movie as well as buying the DVD/Blu Ray release.
Not everyone in the film and television industries is opposed to piracy either. Musician, actor and spoken word performer Henry Rollins has repeatedly stated that he’d “rather be heard than paid” and Vince Gilligan, creator of the popular US TV show ‘Breaking Bad’ has said that piracy helped his show to be successful, by increasing “brand awareness” of his product.
In a Q&A session on Reddit, Gary Fung said, “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”.
Regardless of the debates, the Isohunt site will likely be completely shut down by the time you read this.