March 22, 2013

Jenner & Block won a significant victory for several movie studios when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the operator of one of the world’s largest BitTorrent sites infringed on the studios’ copyrights.  The March 21 decision in Columbia Pictures v. Fung (IsoHunt) upheld a lower court’s summary judgment against Gary Fung, owner of isoHunt Web Technologies Inc.  The earlier ruling, in December 2009, represented the first U.S. decision to address the merits of copyright claims against a peer-to-peer BitTorrent file trading service, which is a type of protocol that involves breaking files into small pieces and allowing users to download from several different peers at once.   In May 2010, the district court issued a comprehensive permanent injunction, ordering the defendants to begin blocking infringement on the site. 

The Ninth Circuit found that isoHunt and Fung, by running websites that linked to BitTorrent files, induced infringement of copyrights held by the firm clients, including Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Disney Enterprises, Inc., Paramount Pictures Corporation and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  "We affirm the district court's holding that Columbia has carried its burden of proving, on the basis of undisputed facts, Fung's liability for inducing others to infringe [the film studios'] copyrights," the Ninth Circuit said.  The Court also rejected Fung’s argument that he was protected by some of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provisions. 

The firm team included Partners Steven B. Fabrizio, Gianni P. Servodidio and Paul M. SmithThe decision was reported in several media outlets including Digital Trends, the California Appellate Report blog and Law360, in which Paul is quoted as saying that the ruling “shows that a site operator who acts with intent to induce and profit from infringement can be held liable.”