Federal Judge Hits TorrentSpy with $111M Penalty

Bob Preston
LOS ANGELES — A federal judge in California has ordered peer-sharing giant TorrentSpy to pay a $111 million penalty for its role in distributing copyrighted works.

The ruling hits TorrentSpy for $30,000 for each of 3,699 counts of copyright infringement brought against the company by the Motion Picture Association of America.

TorrentSpy attorney Ira Rothken has appealed the default order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The ruling came down from U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles, who directed her judgment against site operator Justin Bunnell and his associates.

MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman praised the decision.

"This substantial money judgment sends a strong message about the illegality of these sites," he said.

Attorney Rob Apgood agreed. Apgood, a member of the firm CarpeLaw, told XBIZ he applauded the decision.

"Copyright infringement is so rampant on the Internet, and it's severely damaging copyright holders," he said. "People who facilitate theft should be held just as accountable as the thieves themselves."

Apgood also said that it would send a similar message to adult industry members who run peer-sharing sites.

XMoney general manager and former managing editor of XBIZ World Q Boyer told XBIZ that the rule potentially heralds a deluge of similar copyright infringement cases.

"The key question in each individual case may be whether the plaintiff can persuade the court that the site or service in question is actively encouraging or incentivizing infringement," he said. "It's hard to say whether this would have any impact on tube sites, but it is an indication that torrent trackers aren't as impervious to legal action as some have proclaimed them to be."

TorrentSpy shut down in March after technically losing its case against the MPAA. The loss was a result of TorrentSpy's failure to produce information about its users — a decision that Bunnell said was made to protect users' privacy.

Wired reported that the MPAA paid a hacker $15,000 to produce internal emails and correspondence from TorrentSpy.