After Megaupload, MPAA aims for Hotfile

Category: WTO Sub-category: Intellectual Property
Document type: news

20-Mar-2012 | 10:20 IST | Edited by: Sharmila Maitra


Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios are among five major Hollywood studios which have accused the file-sharing site Hotfile offline of copyright infringement offences.According to the papers filed at a district court in Florida, members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have requested a summary judgment against the site, potentially closing it without any need for a trial.

The Motion pictures, including Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros are of the opinion that Hotfile is responsible for infringing billions of downloads of copyrighted works, including plaintiffs' valuable motion picture and television properties. Further they have said that more than 90% of the files downloaded from Hotfile are copyright infringing, and nearly every Hotfile user is engaged in copyright infringement.

Hotfile is registered in Panama and claimed to work out of Bulgaria currently. It has been an MPAA target for approximately a year now and the timing of the court filing appears to be motivated by the closure of Megaupload in January 2012.

However, what is important to note that a key differentiator between the two cyberlockers is that Hotfile operates an affiliate programme which used to pay uploaders based on download volumes and referrals from other websites, a fact which seems to enrage the MPAA further.

According to the filing, the site is at present seeking to attain 'safe harbor' under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which will protect its owners from damages of any kind.

The studios are, however, disputing Hotfile's claim by stating that the cyberlocker did not identify and track repeat infringers so to remove them, whereas according to Hotfile, it did terminate the accounts and issue warnings.

Last month, in an obvious attempt to placate anti-piracy organizations, Hotfile announced on its news page that it would change its Affiliate Program to make it less profitable for users and would introduce fingerprinting technology to block infringing files. The post also announced a toughened stance on repeat offenders, though based on the MPAA's filing it may be too little too late.

The lawsuit against Hotfile was originally filed in February 2011. In September, Hotfile filed a countersuit against Warner Bros, saying that the studio repeated issued takedown orders for content it did not own. Given the US government's harsh response to Megaupload, however, there is a doubt that such an action will yield good results.

External links:

Hotfile is a one-click file hosting website that was founded by Hotfile Corp in 2006 in Panama City, Panama. It allows users to upload and download files with any web browser. Non-registered users are allowed to upload up to 400 MB at once. Hotfile currently gets 23,000,000 monthly visits.

'Safe harbor' under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): In 1998, Congress passed the On-Line Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) in an effort to protect service providers on the Internet from liability for the activities of its users. Codified as section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).