- BC Games
isoHunt founder agrees to $110 million settlement
The founder of Richmond-based Isohunt.com, a file-sharing website that facilitated the downloading of copyright-infringing material including pirated Hollywood movies, has agreed to a $110 million settlement.
According to a "stipulation and (proposed) judgment" filed in U.S. District Court Central District of California late last week, Isohunt.com founder Gary Fung and Web Technologies Inc. "jointly and severally, shall pay damages to plaintiffs in the amount of one hundred and 10 million dollars (US$110,000,000)."
The plaintiffs in this case were Columbia Pictures Industries, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Tristar Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal City Studios and Universal City Studios Productions.
But Montreal-based Internet lawyer Allen Mendelsohn doubts the movie studios will see a single penny of that judgement.
“I can’t imagine any circumstances that anyone has the capacity to pay that sort of amount,” he said.
Rather, Mendelsohn believes the monstrous figure is intended to be a message to the general public, meant as a deterrent.
And it will force Fung to declare bankruptcy.
Asked how history will look at Fung and his website, Mendelsohn said that will depend on what happens in the coming years.
He believes iTunes wouldn’t exist today if not for the original file-sharing music networks, which forced the music industry’s hand.
But similar progress has not yet been made with the movie and television industries.
“If at some point the (movie and TV) studios do get their act in gear and create a successful model for legal downloads, (Fung) may have been at the forefront of making that happen,” Mendelsohn said. “But we will have to wait to see history play out.”
While Fung declined to comment about the judgement, his website was down, replaced with the following message, suggesting he remains defiant, retains his sense of humour and is optimistic about his future.
Under the title Initiating Self Destruct, Fung wrote: “This is it. We are shutting down isoHunt services a little early. I’m told there was this Internet archival team that wants to make historical copy of our .torrent files, I’m honoured that people think our site is worthy of historical preservation. But the truth is about 95 per cent of those .torrent files can be found off Google regardless and mostly have been indexed from other BitTorrent sites in the first place. So I might as well do a proper send-off to you dear isoHunt users, before final shutdown sequence on Tuesday.”
Fung went on to write that he’s enjoyed his more than 10-year adventure running the site and meeting “some of the smartest guys I’ve worked with, and my life won’t be the same without this journey.”
Despite the blockbuster judgement, Fung remained upbeat.
“For what I’m working on next, please look up my blog on Google and follow me there. Because as the Terminator would say with a German accent, ‘I’ll be backkk.’”
Fung attached a YouTube video claiming to be from the Arnold Schwarzenegger-helmed film Terminator, but containing the "Never Gonna Give You Up" music video by British pop singer Rick Astley, in a humourous bait-and-switch practice known as Rickrolling that first became popular in 2007.
(No word on whether Fung received permission to use the copyrighted Astley song or the image from Terminator on his dismantled site.)
Calls to Fung's lawyers, Ira P. Rothken, and Michael S. Elkin, were not returned.
The settlement indicates Fung agrees to cease and desist from directly or indirectly operating or supporting the “isoHunt system” within seven days of the judgement, including the isoHunt.com/ podtropolis.com, torrentbox.com and ed2K-it.com sites, including servers, trackers, software and electronic data that make up or support such websites.
In the signed agreement, Fung agreed that he consented to “continuing jurisdiction of the court for the purposes of enforcement of the judgement and permanent injunction, and irrevocably and fully waive and relinquish any argument that venue or jurisdiction by this court is improper or inconvenient.”
He also agreed to irrevocably and fully waive any and all right to appeal the judgement and permanent injunction, the agreement dated Oct. 16, 2013 states.
Mendelsohn said Fung became a victim of his own success, as the most visible face of torrent downloading.
And as a result, while he was a hero to downloaders, he was a villain in the eyes of TV and movie execs, and a target of their wrath.