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MPAA Targets Hotfile In Latest Copyright Infringement Battle

Another cyber-locker faces the guillotine after film studios file for a summary judgement against Hotfile

Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios are among five major Hollywood studios looking to force the file-sharing site Hotfile offline for copyright infringement offences.

In papers filed filed at a district court in Florida, members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) requested a summary judgement against the site, potentially closing it without any need for a trial.

Hotfile in the crosshairs

© Franck Boston - Fotolia.com“Hotfile is responsible for billions of infringing downloads of copyrighted works, including plaintiffs’ valuable motion picture and television properties,” the studios, including Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros, claim in the filing. “More than 90 percent of the files downloaded from Hotfile are copyright infringing, and nearly every Hotfile user is engaged in copyright infringement.”

Hotfile, registered in Panama and claiming to work out of Bulgaria, 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.

The studio said: “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.”

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 looking to obtain ‘safe harbour’ under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which would protect its owners from most damages. The studios are disputing Hotfile’s claim by stating that the cyberlocker did not identify and track repeat infringers so to remove them. While Hotfile did terminate accounts and issue warnings, the MPAA notes that offending users were continually allowed to return, thus nullifying the site owners’ claim for protection.

Last month, in an obvious attempt to placate anti-piracy organisations, 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.

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