Up to $750 million in damages from Canada-based torrent site isoHunt is the price that The MPAA is hoping to receive. The movie studio group thinks that this will make others think twice before they start a similar website.
IsoHunt and the MPAA have been battling it out in court for more than seven years and it’s still not over. The case now moves towards a trial from which the movie industry hopes to win a substantial sum in statutory damages, after the 2010 District Court ruling against the torrent site was affirmed earlier this year. How much compensation they’re aiming for, and how they hope to convince the jury was explained in the recent hearing from MPAA lawyer Steven Fabrizio.
The MPAA has reserved the right to add more at a later stage, while the isoHunt case initially listed just 44 copyrighted titles, and according to a recent hearing this could increase to some 5,000 titles.
According to Fabrizio “Defendant’s website infringed virtually the entire library of motion pictures and television programs that our clients own. In the damages proceeding, as a matter of practicalities, there would probably be three to 5,000, which is probably substantially less than the tens of thousands that it could be,”
The jury or court has to pick an appropriate figure for compensation, somewhere between $750 and $150,000 for each of these movies and TV-shows.
“If this issue goes to the jury, the largest issue in this case — the jury will be charged that they have a range of damages they can award, between $750 per work; and if the court finds that defendant’s conduct is willful — and we believe the court has effectively already found that with your liability findings — the maximum per work is $150,000,” the MPAA’s Fabrizio explains.
IsoHunt will face a bill somewhere between $3,000,000 and $750,000,000, (depending on the figure per work reached) once a decision is made in respect of damages.
The MPAA previously won a $110 million judgment against the TorrentSpy site that’s why these dazzling numbers are not all that unrealistic either.
There is no need to show that the studios suffered any losses as the MPAA is talking about statutory damages. The high number they’re shooting for is also in part meant to deter others from operating similar sites, according to the lawyer.
Fabio also told the court “We would argue the defendant’s conduct in this case — as found by Your Honor and affirmed by the Ninth Circuit — is particularly egregious. This was not inadvertent copyright infringement, it was intentional, willful copyright infringement, and that the jury should award an amount of damages that not only will punish defendants but deter defendants and those like him,”
But isoHunt still has to be found guilty and the evidence the MPAA plans to rely on mostly consists of screenshots and the anonymized server logs isoHunt had to turn over in 2007. This info will be used by the movie studios to show that copyrighted works were downloaded from the site.
The MPA stated “Plaintiffs have 27 days of server data from the Fung Websites showing millions of downloads of dot torrent files. For this data, Plaintiffs simply need to identify the dot torrent files corresponding to their copyrighted works, a straightforward, albeit time-consuming process,”
MPA hopes that the court will then decide that isoHunt is indeed guilty of direct copyright infringement.
isoHunt’s lawyer says that “Plaintiffs ignore the requirement that, in order to prove direct infringement, they must show that "United States users either uploaded or downloaded copyrighted works”.
“Of course, the mere fact that dot-torrent files may have been downloaded by someone, somewhere in the world, is irrelevant to show damages. To show a relevant underlying direct infringement, Plaintiffs must establish that Plaintiffs works at issue were actually downloaded by at least one United States user.”
isoHunt’s lawyer further adds that the suggested evidence does not show that the people who downloaded the files actually visited the torrent site, apart from the location issue.
The MPAA’s attitude makes it clear that if they have the chance, they will try to get the highest damages award possible.
The movie studios won’t rest until isoHunt owner Gary Fung is bankrupt. They are willing to hold a judgment over Fung’s head for the rest of his life, as the MPAA stated a few years back.
Fabrizio said “If Gary Fung creates a legitimate website, we’ll be there. If he sells that company for $100 million, we’ll be there. For the rest of his life we’ll be able to pursue that judgment”.