Canadian torrent site isoHunt to shut down, debate still rages

For Internet users that love to download movies, music and games, today's a tough day.

isoHunt, a popular site used to find BitTorrent files to download, is shutting down. The company announced its decision on Thursday, following a lengthy legal battle with Hollywood studios from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

"It’s sad to see my baby go. But I have fought the good fight," wrote Gary Fung, the company's Vancouver founder, on his own site, adding that he hasn't compromised any of the users’ privacy.

Fung started the company in January of 2003 and went on to index several million torrents, getting up to 7.5 million unique visitors in its heyday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. His "baby" isn't the only file-sharing site to be dragged through the court circuit, The Pirate Bay and Megaupload have also taken hits in high-profile court cases. And unlucky individual users have also been targeted in the past.

Furthermore, a 2012 U.K. study found that practically all files shared through torrent search engines such as isoHunt get monitored. The researchers speculated that copyright enforcement companies were behind the monitoring.

[ Related: BitTorrent file sharers are heavily monitored, study finds ]

IsoHunt, that started off as a programming hobby for Fung, has boldly described itself as "the most advanced BitTorrent search engine. With cross-referenced trackers statistics for all torrents indexed updated to the hour, this is the best P2P files search engine and community."

"I’ve done the best I could pushing the social benefits of BitTorrent and file sharing, the searching and sharing of culture itself," Fung wrote.

In court, he argued that isoHunt, as a search engine, does not make copyright infringements itself. But several court rulings didn't agree, concluding that Fung had "red flag" knowledge of copyright infringements and that his site facilitated this activity. The battle has already been lost, even if Fung had another federal trial scheduled for November.

The settlement, made weeks ahead of the trial, also requires isoHunt to pay $110 million to MPAA.

The company likely won't be able to pay the amount — it's estimated to have "$5 million at the most," Techdirt reports. But, more importantly, the settlement is important as it may act as a precedent for future cases.

“Today’s settlement is a major step forward in realizing the enormous potential of the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and innovation,” said Chris Dodd, MPAA'S chairman and chief executive, to the media.

“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.”

Not everyone sees this as a step forward, however.

"Now, unfortunately, the MPAA can continue to point to the rulings in isoHunt, including many of the more problematic claims around inducement liability and red flag knowledge, knowing that they can't be directly challenged in that case any more," Techdirt says.

"Amusingly, Chris Dodd is out there claiming that this is some sort of victory for innovation."

Whatever it is, Fung's choosing to call it a step forward in his post: "I’m working on new projects, so this is not a good bye, but announcing a new beginning for yours truly."

What do you think of the settlement? Let us know in the comments below.

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