Nearly two years and a half years after first filing their suit on behalf of several studios, the MPAA today scored a victory against file-sharing service Hotfile. A federal court in Florida has found the site and its boss Anton Titov liable for copyright infringement. Today is the first time a U.S. court has ruled that such cyberlocker sites can be held directly liable for their practices. “This decision sends a clear signal that businesses like Hotfile that are built on a foundation of stolen works will be held accountable for the damage they do both to the hardworking people in the creative industries and to a secure, legitimate Internet”, MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd in a statement today. “We applaud the court for recognizing that Hotfile was not simply a storage locker, but an entire business model built on mass distribution of stolen content.” With claims of “ill-gotten gains” and a list of hundreds of the thousands of TV shows and films that Hotfile had allegedly infringed, the original 2011 complaint had Disney Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios Productions, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros as its plaintiffs. As others have done, the stateside-based Hotfile tried to use the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a defense — although ultimately unsuccessfully. Today’s full decision from Judge Kathleen Williams won’t be made public for two weeks until confidential and propriety details are redacted. However, lawyers for both sides were allowed to review the opinion before its gist was revealed. Last year, the MPAA filed a motion for summary judgement against Hotfile to have the service shut down and pay damages to the studios whose work it infringed. That followed a clampdown on similar site Megaupload in early 2012 after a grand jury indictment on the company and its execs.
In this case, the studios and the MPAA were represented by Steve Fabrizio, Duane Pozza and Luke Platzer of the D.C. offices of Jenner & Block LLP along with Karen Stetson of Miami firm Gray-Robinson P.A.