isoHUNT’s Fung to pay $65 M in Copyright Infringement Settlement

One of Canada’s longest-running lawsuits about copyright infringement and pirated music ended Monday, with a judge in Vancouver announcing a $65 million settlement in a case dating back to 2010.

According to various reports and an extensive timeline from Music Canada, Gary Fung, founder of isoHunt Web Technologies Inc., shared music files via isoHunt, a network of BitTorrent file sharing sites. In 2008, isoHunt filed a petition in British Columbia Supreme Court against Canadian music companies, arguing its BitTorrent site should be considered legal under the Canadian Copyright Act, a request that was rejected by the same court in 2009; the court, at the same time, grants the music companies’ application to proceed to a full trial. Meanwhile, in the US, a federal district court found isoHunt liable for copyright infringement against the Motion Picture Association of America for sharing illegally downloaded movies.

In 2010, more than 20 Canadian and international music companies sued isoHunt and Fung for “massive copyright infringement,” offenses the Canadian government tried to protect against and create a system for punishing in its 2012 Copyright Modernization Act, “which ensure that businesses that enable infringement can be held liable for the activities they facilitate,” Music Canada states. “In public statements, government representatives identify isoHunt as the type of ‘enabler’ that the law is intended to target.” When, in 2013, the US federal court of appeals upheld the 2009 ruling, isoHunt and Fung entered into an agreement to stop all international operations and agreed to a $110 million settlement that likely won’t be paid, as noted by Billboard.com.

On Monday, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled against isoHunt and Fung, ordering him to pay $55 million CAD in damages for copyright infringement and an additional $10 million CAD for punitive damages, and forcing Fung to agree to never again be involved in a service that provides stolen or pirated content without explicit authorization.

“Music companies in Canada stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against illegitimate sites that distribute massive volumes of creative works without compensation to creators,” Graham Henderson, president and CEO of Music Canada, said in a statement released Monday. “Thousands of Canadian creators, our creative industries and their employees are directly harmed by these activities. This settlement is a step forward toward providing consumers with a marketplace in which legitimate online music services can thrive.”

Adds Frances Moore, chief executive officer at IFPI, “Courts all over the world have confirmed that websites such as isoHunt infringe rights. Artists, creators and record companies pay a heavy price for that infringement, in lost revenues, lost jobs and lost investment. This settlement sends a strong message that anyone who builds a business by encouraging and enabling copyright infringement faces legal consequences for these actions.”

But does it really scare would-be purveyors of stolen content into lives of abiding by the law?
If Fung’s statement released after the decision is any indication, that’s not very likely.

Writing on Medium.com, he notes that isoHunt has been “the internet’s first search engine for BitTorrent since 2003.” He nods to the two lawsuits, during he says he promised himself he’d “protect isoHunt users’ rights and privacy in not disclosing any user data,” including email and IP addresses, adding that he’s “happy to announce” the end of the suits.

He’s been successful in keeping user data anonymous and, in return, thanks isoHunt’s users for support since shuttering the site in 2013. “It was an interesting and challenging journey for me to say the least, and the most profound business learning experience I could not expect.”

Then, in a turn for the spiteful and sarcastic, he congratulates “both Hollywood and CRIA on their victories, in letting me off with fines of $110m and $66m, respectively. Thank you! Here’s the progress, and me leaving my life of innovative hobby to…something else? As I’ve realized through the years, there are many industries to disrupt with internet software besides the media industry.”

He then outlines his next, already started, project, AAG! (Apps to Automate Googling).

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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