In May, 2010, a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles issued a permanent injunction against isoHunt as a result of its court battle with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), ordering isoHunt to censor the site’s search engine “based on a list of thousands of keywords provided by the MPAA, or cease its operations entirely in the U.S.” TorrentFreak.
Gary Fung, owner of isoHunt, filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He argues that isoHunt is “just like Google – a neutral search engine – and hopes the court will decide that the keyword filter is needless censorship.” TorrentFreak.
Google has been silent throughout the battle between MPAA and isoHunt — until now. Google has decided to file an amicus curiae brief with the appellate court because if the injunction holds up, “Google may face similar censorship threats.” TorrentFreak.
On its face, Google seems to be taking isoHunt’s side. In reality, Google is helping no one but itself. In fact, Google agrees with the District Court’s conclusion that isoHunt is guilty of copyright infringement because there is plenty of evidence that shows that isoHunt encouraged its users to download copyrighted materials. However, Google is worried about the District Court’s reasoning that led to the conclusion because it might “upset the careful balance between copyright protection and technological innovation struck by the Supreme Court and Congress.” TorrentFreak. As a result, upholding the injunction may be detrimental for neutral search engines like Google.
Moreover, Google is trying to distinguish itself from isoHunt under the safe-harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which protects “legitimate” online service providers like YouTube from copyright liability. Google claims that isoHunt is not protected by the DMCA because it failed to meet some of the requirements.
Although isoHunt is disappointed at Google’s involvement, some of the arguments that Google made may be advantageous for all torrent sites.