A May 5, 2008 ruling by Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California placed a permanent injunction on file sharing Web site TorrentSpy, and awarded the plaintiff motion picture studios statutory damages of $110,970,000 – or $30,000 each for 3,699 infringements – plus court costs.
In December 2007, Cooper granted the plaintiffs’ motion for terminating sanctions, an order she said was appropriate only in “extraordinary circumstances,” because she said that TorrentSpy had destroyed evidence during the discovery phase of the trial, including deleting and modifying user forum posts on their Web site and concealing the Internet protocol addresses of users, preventing the plaintiffs from determining whether the defendants had uploaded copyrighted movies.
As a result, the court concluded the lawsuit and entered a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, which included Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Disney Enterprises, Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp., Tristar Pictures, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., Universal City Studios LLLP and Universal City Studios Productions LLLP. (For more on the December 2007 ruling see “Studios Win Copyright Judgment against File Sharing Web Site” in the Winter 2008 Silha Bulletin.)
Cooper’s May 5 order effectively halts TorrentSpy’s operation as a site for sharing copyrighted films and television shows. The defendants are banned from “directly, indirectly, contributorily, or vicariously infringing in any manner any [c]opyrighted [w]orks” owned by the plaintiffs. The order specifically prohibits TorrentSpy from “reproducing, distributing, publicly performing, or displaying any of the defendants’ copyrighted work, or from “encouraging, promoting, soliciting, or inducing, or knowingly materially contributing to, enabling, facilitating, or assisting, any person or entity, via any computer server, computer program, website, or online system, network or service, including … any peer-to-peer or file-trading network …” in sharing the plaintiffs’ copyrighted work.
The Associated Press reported May 8, 2008 that lawyers for TorrentSpy’s operators, Valence Media LLC, filed a document in court following the May 5 ruling saying the company had sought bankruptcy protection in a British court and requesting that the judgment be stayed. A message at www.torrentspy.com said the Web site “permanently closed down worldwide on March 24, 2008” because “the legal climate in the USA for copyright … is simply too hostile.”
– Patrick File
Silha Fellow and Bulletin Editor