Plaintiff Wins by Default Judgment in Copyright Infringement Case

The Case
The MPAA brought a lawsuit against TorrentSpy operators for copyright infringement in February of 2006.  The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently ruled in favor of the MPAA.  A ruling on damages has yet to occur and TorrentSpy does plan to appeal.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the ruling is that it was not necessarily based on the merits of the MPAA’s case. Instead, the Judge issued a default judgment, declaring that the defendants destroyed evidence and that their conduct was “obstreperous.”


A few months after the MPAA brought their lawsuit against TorrentSpy, the Judged ordered the defendants to keep records of the data transmitted over their network, including information held in RAM.  The defendants felt this order was damaging to online free speech and privacy and apparently did not comply with it.  Additionally, TorrentSpy cut off its service from the U.S. 


About the Defendant
TorrentSpy is a file search engine.  As the name suggests, the search engine is primarily focused on Torrents.  Torrents are the files downloaded via the BitTorrent protocol.  BitTorrent is a file sharing system for sharing files across a network of people.  It’s important to note that TorrentSpy is only indexing the torrents.


The Decision
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) contains a safe harbor provision for online service providers. This provision allows a copyright holder to send a DMCA takedown notice to the online service provider to require the copyrighted material be removed from its service. TorrentSpy does report it complies with this Act and as a search engine site, could fit within the safe harbor provision.  As such, whether or not TorrentSpy did infringe on the MPAA’s copyrights is questionable.