In what the Motion Picture Association of America describes as a critically important step toward protecting an Internet that works for audiences and hardworking people in the creative industries, the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida has found Hotfile, one of the world’s most trafficked infringing sites, liable for copyright infringement, and rejected Hotfile’s defence under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Court further held that Hotfile’s principal, Anton Titov, was personally liable for Hotfile’s infringement as well. The case marked the first time that a US court has ruled on whether so-called cyberlockers such as Hotfile can be held liable for their infringing business practices.
“This decision sends a clear signal that businesses like Hotfile that are built on a foundation of stolen works will be held accountable for the damage they do both to the hardworking people in the creative industries and to a secure, legitimate internet,” said Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA. “We applaud the court for recognising that Hotfile was not simply a storage locker, but an entire business model built on mass distribution of stolen content. Today’s decision is a victory for all of the men and women who work hard to create our favorite movies and TV shows, and it’s a victory for audiences who deserve to feel confident that the content they’re watching online is high quality, legitimate and secure.”
Hotfile’s business model paid users to upload files containing illegal copies of motion pictures and TV shows to its servers, and to post links to them on third-party sites, so that unlimited numbers of users could download the content. Though it claimed to function primarily as a legitimate storage service, Hotfile paid nothing for smaller files such as personal papers and documents. This incentive structure meant that countless numbers of Hotfile’s uploaders of content were identified by copyright owners as infringers. Hotfile protected those infringers because those users were the foundation of the Hotfile system; they drove the site’s traffic by offering stolen works. As the Court found, “Hotfile was successful in large part because it did not control infringement activity on its system”.
“When sites like Hotfile that traffic in stolen works are held accountable, it gives secure, legitimate platforms more opportunity to thrive and to provide audiences with faster, higher-quality shows and movies,” Dodd continued. “Our member studios are relentlessly innovating to provide audiences with even more innovative options for watching the movies and shows they love – and audiences can find them at www.wheretowatch.org. Today’s decision was a critically important step toward protecting an Internet that works for everyone – both the people who create the content and the audiences who enjoy watching it.”
The Court’s opinion will be made public by the Court in approximately two weeks, once confidential and proprietary information has been redacted.