Torrent site owners found liable for “inducing” copyright infringement

Posted On April 4, 2013
In Copyright in Cyberspace / Reply

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s finding that the owners of websites providing torrent files are liable for contributory copyright infringement.

The defendants in Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. v. Fung, 447 F.Supp.2d 306 owned the websites, and These sites collected, organised and made searchable torrent files for movies and other copyrighted material.

The court found the defendants were liable for contributory copyright infringement on an inducement theory, because the plaintiffs had established:

  1. distribution of a “device or product” – i.e. access to the torrent files provided by the sites
  2. acts of infringement – i.e. the uploading and downloading of the protected material by the users of the sites
  3. an object of promoting the product’s use to infringe copyright – proved by unrebutted evidence
  4. causation – i.e. the defendants’ use of the P2P file sharing protocol known as BitTorrent

The court also found that the defendants were not entitled to protection from liability under any of the safe harbour provisions of the DMCA.

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