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isoHunt sues CRIA on legality of torrent search engines

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 12 Sep 2008 16:58 User comments (13)

isoHunt sues CRIA on legality of torrent search engines The torrent search engine isoHunt has announced that it is suing CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) in an effort to see what the judicial system thinks on the legality of torrent search engines.
From the isoHunt official blog, President Gary Fung writes:

"This is one of the hardest decisions I had to make, to sue one of the most powerful lobby and corporate conglomerates in Canada. But for sake of continuing operation and development of isoHunt, this is something we must do. I don't pretend to speak on behalf of all BitTorrent websites or users, but I speak to point out that with a lawsuit from CRIA hanging over our heads, we fight not just for our survival as an internet company of search engines and social networks, but also for other websites, from BitTorrent sites to larger search engines like Google, on which most of us have come to depend. The legal ramifications concerning search engines and linking here are far reaching.

For a better understanding of what brought us here, this is a brief history of our dealing with the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association).

In October 2006, CRIA's anti-piracy department sent us a notice and takedown on certain songs. They included correct identification by URL's of .torrent links to files allegedly infringing their copyright. We took them down.

There was no further communication, until May 2008 when Mr. Sookman, counsel representing CRIA, issued cease and desist letters to isoHunt.com and our sister sites ( Torrentbox.com and Podtropolis.com ), as well as to our upstream ISP. The letters all used similar language, that our websites serve no other purpose but to infringe CRIA's copyrighted music. They harassed our ISP with accusations of hosting a den of thieves (my paraphrase). We pointed them to our copyright policy ( [link] ), and that we have cooperated in the past in identification and takedown of links they wanted removed. We asked them in subsequent letters to identify links to their copyrighted files as we had done in 2006. They ignored our offers, and cited there's no "safe harbor" for a service provider like us and our copyright policy doesn't mean anything to them in Canada.

Here lies some great ironies. We have had cooperation from various music companies and associations in other countries in issuing notice and takedowns for links to their respective infringed content, some of which are the same international companies that CRIA represents. Some of their copyright agents have made blunders in misidentifying links, like requesting takedown of links that look very much like porn, based on colorful vocabulary in their filenames, or at least we were pretty sure were not music files based on some of their file extensions. But we move on after rejecting such obviously erroneous requests. But CRIA's blatant ignorance of their very own past takedown practices which happened to be proper and correct just because they want to sue us, illustrates the importance of ISP safe harbor provisions in the new bill C-61 for the survival of whole classes of internet websites and search engines.

No wonder why a group of prominent Canadian artists and labels formed the CMCC, broke out of CRIA and told them, "not in our names" ( [link] ). This is why Canadians who care about music should support artists in the CMCC group, those who doesn't want to sue their fans, those who are trying to find ways for fans to share in our new world online that can fairly compensate their work, and those who actually make good music. At least I'm a fan of some on the CMCC's artists list.

Before you think I'm trying to rally a riot against copyright, I want to reiterate our stance that we do believe in Imaginary Property (IP) because imagination takes effort, and realizing them through music or videos or games takes more effort, time and money. Copyright laws need reform for the 21st century, and my hope as a Canadian is in a substantially improved C-61. I defer to Geist's blog ( [link] ) on pointing out what's wrong with C-61 in its current form. All Canadians who appreciates how copyright affects them should support reform for a more fairly balanced bill C-61. Geist's website has information on how Canadians can help reform C-61.

Now, before the critics say isoHunt.com is full of links to copyright infringing content and we should just pack up and leave. To which I'll summarize what our petition to the BC court is all about. isoHunt is a search engine of BitTorrent sites, and our sister sites are indices of direct user contributed .torrent links. None of the pieces of files exchanged over BitTorrent pass through our servers, they are exchanged over external P2P networks. We serve cached .torrent links to such files on P2P networks. Some of these files maybe copyright infringing, some aren't. But given the ridiculously long copyright terms in most countries of the world (which does differ) and that all creative media are copyrighted by default (in many countries), large majority of files exchanged on the internet would be copyrighted. That includes Linux ISO images and your videos of friends and family doing whacky things. The real question is are they infringing against the wishes of respective copyright owners. We make and run a great search engine here at isoHunt, but we unfortunately do not have the technology to mind read what are the wishes of all copyright owners, or who they are to begin with in association with the tens of millions of files on BitTorrent, to which we only indexes metadata links and not actual content files. Whatever copyright laws or safe harbor provisions provided in different countries, the only sensible and technically possible thing to do we've found is to take down links to allegedly infringing content only upon request and verification. This part of the US's DMCA is one which has much foresight and makes sense. (although not perfect obviously, it should add provisions for monetary punishment on erroneous notices as we receive plenty of ignorant or erroneous takedown requests and there isn't much recourse about them, but that's another topic)

The bottom line is we developed a search engine for BitTorrent protocols when it was still in its infancy, and even now it has not yet gained full mainstream use. We are on the cutting edge of emerging internet technologies, and I ask reasonable people of Canada and whoever else reading this to accept that it is not my wish for my websites and search engines to infringe rights of others. As all emerging technologies go, increasingly beneficial usage of BitTorrent will emerge with more widespread adoption by various parties. I'm referring to the US's Sony Betamax decision here; as the VCRs have been allowed to develop, enabling a new industry of videos playable at home, I plead that emerging technologies like BitTorrent and our web services be allowed that same chance to develop."


We will certainly keep you updated with any developments in this case.

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13 user comments

112.9.2008 20:09

nice a taste of ur own medicine

213.9.2008 1:02
atomicxl
Inactive

All this goes out the window when you see the site has ads on it.

The bulk of the content is copyrighted and should not be on there. Not only do you get money when people come to your site to access copyrighted content, but you aid them in getting this content. You're making $$$ from the copyrighted content, not paying a penny to the artist who drive visitors to your site (lets be honest, how dead would a torrent search engine be if you couldn't grab illegal content from it?) and then turning around and trying to play all innocent as if your site is primarily used by academics or people sharing home photos.

There is a world of difference between an upload home movie and a DVD rip of a movie. I don't know how anyone could try to spin that as the same thing and keep a straight face.

They better put up a donation box if they plan on taking on a massive media corporation. LOL, but if the visitors don't even think music is worth $0.99 I doubt they'll get too much as far as donations go.

313.9.2008 2:26

Kinda risky move on their part. Look what happened with Grokster.

413.9.2008 3:27

Originally posted by atomicxl:
All this goes out the window when you see the site has ads on it.

The bulk of the content is copyrighted and should not be on there. Not only do you get money when people come to your site to access copyrighted content, but you aid them in getting this content. You're making $$$ from the copyrighted content, not paying a penny to the artist who drive visitors to your site (lets be honest, how dead would a torrent search engine be if you couldn't grab illegal content from it?) and then turning around and trying to play all innocent as if your site is primarily used by academics or people sharing home photos.

There is a world of difference between an upload home movie and a DVD rip of a movie. I don't know how anyone could try to spin that as the same thing and keep a straight face.

They better put up a donation box if they plan on taking on a massive media corporation. LOL, but if the visitors don't even think music is worth $0.99 I doubt they'll get too much as far as donations go.
You are avoiding the question and instead expressing your views on illegal file sharing.

The question in this case is whether or not a search engine is liable for what it finds. In otehr words, if I type into Google, "Man molesting little boy while killing wife," and it brings me to a site that shows the nasty video, is Google then responsible? IsoHunt is not providing or even storing the torrents, they are a search engine for the torrents. Is Yahoo responsible for copyrighted material that I find on the internet using their search engine?


So read the article before you spat your views on illegal file sharing.

513.9.2008 7:08
oappi
Inactive

@gallagher

I agree. Torrent files are basicly links to file pieces and those make the whole thing you download. If i was going to get someone for that it would be the one who fist seeded the file and maybe to others who share the file.

Imo isohunt has done everything CRIA wanted, but still are beeing harassed by them.

613.9.2008 7:26
13thHouR
Inactive

@ gallagher

do a quick search in google, msn search (Live Search), yahoo and you can find plenty of copy-write material. Hell America was built of plagiarism, and slavery.

what needs to be separated is the rhetoric of labelling file sharing as stealing.


This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 13 Sep 2008 @ 7:31

713.9.2008 7:45
varnull
Inactive

This is interesting.. If they are seen to be guilty of anything then so is google and every other search engine...

Try typing in dark knight torrent into a google search box... and there you go.. lots and lots of copyright infringing content all happily found and reported with links by google... or is there more to this.. like the way google hands information over to the US government for spying purposes whereas isohunt doesn't.

I'm waiting for somebody getting arrested for "copyright infringement" by reading a book to their young children at bedtime.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 13 Sep 2008 @ 7:48

813.9.2008 11:06
atomicxl
Inactive

Hmmm... point taken.

Still though, I don't think they'll win this case. After taking my opinion on torrents out of it, I think they have a worthwhile argument but if the candian legal system is anything like the US one, a major corporation can keep the little guy wrapped up in insane legal fees until he doesn't have any money to continue forward with the case.

Its not breaking the law, just walking a very thin ethical line... a line very similar to the one walked when making money by helping people find illegal content.

913.9.2008 11:52
varnull
Inactive

But surely that isn't the responsibility of a search engine? You can find all sorts of illegal information (or information governments would not like you seeing) using any search engine. The responsibility for content is down to the searcher and the end user.. Just because it may not be "ethical" to view or seek such information should it be denied? That kind of behaviour sets a very dangerous censorship precident.. as is happening in China right now, and as found by investigators and campaigners certain ISP's in the USA, Canada and the UK. This can be easily proven by anybody who cares to use a different dns service or a web proxy ;)

Fine.. be censored by "ethics".. and another nail is driven into the coffin of freedom.

1014.9.2008 10:34

Google and other legitimate search engines are great tools for piracy, why screw around with a few trackers that one particular web site has decided to index when you can search them all using Google.

These same copyright groups know this too, yet they choose to send take down notices to Google rather than take them on. Why? Because they know that Google would fight them into bankruptcy.

The copyright groups choose to prey on the smaller and the weaker sites, which as some have pointed out are out are only taking information available from the web, they are not actively involved in Piracy. They are acting just like a yellow pages or an internet directory, just like Google. What these groups haven't learned is that piracy is not going to go anywhere. Period. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on creating various copyright protection schemes and they have all been broken, whether for software, audio or video. The ones that have semi-worked have only backfired against the legitimate owner.

These companies and their trade groups would be better served figuring out how to embrace the new technology and make money from that, rather fighting against the tide.

The truly amusing thing, on the software side anyway, is that for most software products sold, there are open source and free equivalents, which in most cases are as good, if not better than the software you pay for.

1114.9.2008 22:38
RappaJinx
Inactive

Its about time someone stood up to those punk four letter agencies. Peopel are getting tired of these idiots pushing them around.

Jit
www.anonymize.us.tc

1215.9.2008 7:49

I am waiting for a law that makes us pay money to breath air. That is what this is about. Enities making laws to prey on the public. Why should a patent that may have cost hundreds of millions of dollars last 17 yrs in the US while a copyright costing 5 grand last a century. It only cost 5,000 because the music industry took the artist out and got him drunk and buttered them up before they made the deal. This does not happen any more but the same type of slim is still running the show. Just a few year ago the law makers of Britan increased the length of the copyrights form 50 to 75 years. Why, "because it was fair". That meant the law makers were paid so it is fair that they should get what they paid for.

Law makers at not paid to think, just to act. Obviously their masters do not like Isohunt.

1322.5.2012 6:53
parareal
Unverified new user

One thing i cannot understand is why is it illegal for a torrent search engine to operate?
As long as they do not have the files on their servers they should be untouchable, else google and all the other search engines would also have to be closed too.
It seems to me that authorities interpret the law to their advantage.
Example
If someone buys a gun, and shoots someone, the law does not go to the seller of the gun and force them to close down, do they?(unless sold to under age person etc), they go to the one who used the gun.
It seems to me that the authorities do not want to have to go to the trouble of chasing each and every one who downloads a torrent, they want the easy way out by closing the torrent engines.
I could go on about the various examples of businesses selling things that could be used for illegal purposes, yet the law says it is perfectly legal for them to sell these things, yet they target a torrent search engine.
This is not lawfull.
Good luck isohunt, you have a case as far as i can see.

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