updated 11:15 pm EST, Fri March 9, 2012
Claims site 'indistinguishable' from Megaupload
Perhaps emboldened by the US government domain seizure of Megaupload, a cadre of film studios have argued in court for the shutdown of Hotfile, another file-sharing business that makes money from advertising and fees and is regularly accused of hosting some copyright-infringing material uploaded by its users. In seeking a summary judgement, the studios say that Hotfile uses the same business model as Megaupload and should therefore be stopped.
The film studios, which include Warner Brothers, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Columbia, have claimed that Hotfile actively encourages infringement by not identifying and punishing repeat infringers, and thus the site does not quality for DMCA "Safe Harbor" status. Owner Anton Titov has responded by saying that Hotfile does comply with DMCA "Safe Harbor" provisions by providing a "report abuse" form and allowing "selected copyright owners" use a tool that will "instantaneously take down files they believe infringe on their copyrights." The company has also registered a DMCA agent and posted policies on infringing copyrights and repeat infringers.
Titov also argued that unlike Megaupload, Hotfile has done nothing in the way of "technical features to frustrate copyright owner enforcement efforts," a reference to blocks Megaupload put up that prevented certain IP addresses from reaching the site. The MPAA studios first sued Hotfile a year ago, and Hotfile countersued in September, arguing that its business was not primarily centered around piracy that Warner Brothers had itself violated the DMCA by repeatedly filing takedown notices on content that it did not own the rights to.
The domain seizure of a New Zealand-based website by the US government triggered an international backlash of DDoS attacks and Anonymous threats against federal websites in both countries. The action was seen as an overreach by the US in not letting New Zealand authorities handle the issue, and a threat against free-speech websites not located in the US that might engage in anti-US protests.
Anger over the takedown of Megaupload was not limited to activist groups, however. Though the site did host numerous copyright-infringing files, it was also widely used by legitimate businesses and individuals for non-infringing file sharing and distribution, and subscribers lost data and services when the site was shut down.
Most other legitimate file-sharing sites have expressed concern or changed policies on file-sharing as a result of the seizure over the possibility that even non-US sites can be arbitrarily disrupted or closed because of any potential copyright infringing uploads, a rationale that could easily see YouTube and other US-based sharing sites seized if the law were applied to Google as it is to smaller operators. [via Ars Technica]