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MPAA requests summary judgement in Hotfile case

By | Published on Thursday 8 March 2012

It’s hard to work out quite who enemy number one is in the online piracy world these days – who are we meant to hate more, The Pirate Bay, MegaUpoad or Grooveshark? Well, here’s another one for your files, as the US movie industry – having persuaded the American authorities to take out the Mega empire – focuses its efforts on another leading file-transfer service, Hotfile.

The Motion Picture Association Of America first filed legal proceedings against the MegaUpload competitor just over a year ago, but this week filed new papers requesting a summary judgement in the case, comparing Hotfile to the Mega business that US authorities swooped on in January. According to Torrentfreak, the MPAA’s legal papers say: “Hotfile’s business model is indistinguishable from that of the website MegaUpload, which recently was indicted criminally for engaging in the very same conduct as Hotfile. Defendants even admit that they formed Hotfile ‘to compete with’ Megaupload”.

The MPAA also cites research it commissioned that suggests over 90% of files downloaded via the Panama-based Hotfile platform each day are unlicensed music or movie content, and that nearly all of the service’s users commit copyright infringement via the site.

Aware that Hotfile will likely argue that the famous safe harbour clauses of America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act protect it from infringement claims (ie it’s users who infringe, and Hotfile routinely helps rights owners remove infringing files), the MPAA says that – like MegaUpload – the defendant operates a deliberately slack takedown system, that it failed to ban repeat infringers from uploading files to the service, and it explicitly helped users download clearly infringing content.

Like with MegaUpload, Hotfile management argue that they operate within American law, and dispute the movieindustry’s claims regarding their involvement in direct copyright infringement, where copyright law is less ambiguous. They have also accused one MPAA member, Warner Bros, of misusing their takedown system, ordering the deletion of files uploaded by Hotfile users in which they have no copyright claim, including one bit of freeware software.

Whether or not the US courts will deliver the summary judgement the MPAA wants remains to be seen. Though whichever way this litigation goes – and especially if a full court hearing occurs – it could set some interesting precedents regards the liabilities, under American law, of file-transfer companies (as opposed to old school P2P software makers or BitTorrent link sites) which operate allegedly shoddy takedown systems – which could have implications on the MegaUpload criminal case, and even the ongoing legal battle between the major record companies and Grooveshark.