Vancouverite Gary Fung’s legal battle against the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is over. He has agreed to shut down the highly popular downloading website isoHunt.com and pay the consortium of Hollywood studios a $110 million fine.
The search engine website first started ten years ago and quickly became one of the top places to download copyrighted and illicit digital material ranging anything from software, music, movies and pornography.
As part of the agreement, the site will shut down by October 23, 2013.
Update: isoHunt shut down two days early in an attempt to foil plans by an archival team to replicate the site’s data elsewhere.
A statement released by Fung:
It’s sad to see my baby go. But I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 10.5 years of isoHunt has been a long journey by any business definition, and forever in Internet startup time. It started as a programming hobby in my university days that has become so, so much more. It’s been a learning experience beyond what I imagined. I’ve done the best I could pushing the social benefits of BitTorrent and file sharing, the searching and sharing of culture itself, but it’s time for me to move on to new software ideas and projects.
According to Alexa Internet, isoHunt is currently the 423rd most popular website in the world and often reached the top 100 over its lifespan. To give this ranking some context over the web’s 634 million websites (as of 2012), Netflix comes in at No. 96 and Hulu comes short of isoHunt at No. 340. Within Canada, the file sharing website is ranked as No. 167 in traffic.
The numbers with isoHunt are also staggering, with the site reporting it currently has 13.7 million active BitTorrent files and 51 million users either uploading or downloading.
It is not known whether Fung has the $110 million to pay the agreed fine, the profitability of the website has not been made public nor do estimates exist. As one of the world’s most popular websites, it operated on private Canadian servers and fed off on $1/month premium memberships, T-shirt sales and banner ads.
For the studios that MPAA represents, which comprises of Paramount Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros and Universal City Studios, as part of their lawsuit they have claimed the film industry’s profits have been significantly affected from sites like Fung’s.
The MPAA released a statement shortly after the announcement of isoHunt’s shut down, saying that the “settlement is a major step forward in realizing the enormous potential of the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and innovation.”
“It also sends a strong message that those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions.”
The settlement comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a unanimous decision on March 21, 2013 that affirmed a previous 2009 court decision ruling against isoHunt.