Isohunt.com to shut down in settlement with movie studios

The BitTorrent search site lost an appeals court case earlier this year

BitTorrent search engine isoHunt.com will shut down operations next week in a settlement with U.S. movie studios that have long accused the website of copyright infringement, the studios said Thursday.

The eight movie studios, including Columbia Pictures, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox Film, have also asked a California court to enter a US$110 million judgment against the site and its operator, Gary Fung.

Under the settlement, the site will shut down next Wednesday.

The settlement is "a major step forward in realizing the enormous potential of the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and innovation," Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement. "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."

The settlement in Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. v. Fung comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in March, affirmed a district court's 2009 ruling against isoHunt for inducing users to illegally download and distribute the MPAA members' movies and TV shows over BitTorrent. IsoHunt and Fung were not protected by the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the appeals court ruled.

The MPAA's members sued Fung and isoHunt in 2006 in federal court in New York and the case was later transferred to Los Angeles. In 2009, Judge Stephen Wilson of U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the defendants' "intent to induce infringement is overwhelming and beyond reasonable dispute."

The site is ranked in the top 450 most-visited websites on the Internet, according to Alexa.com. It is the fourth-most-popular BitTorrent site, the MPAA said.

A representative of isoHunt wasn't immediately available for comment.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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