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Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. v. Fung

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
710 F.3d 1020 (2013)


Facts

Gary Fung (defendant) owns and operates several websites that utilize the BitTorrent protocol to enable users to locate torrent files available for download. The BitTorrent protocol breaks down song and movie files, among others, into many separate, smaller files, which can be uploaded by and downloaded from a variety of sources to make file exchange faster. As part of the protocol, torrent files are used to describe how an audio or visual file is broken down and how it should be reassembled. The torrent file does not include content of the original audio or visual file, but is instead instructional. It also includes reference to a tracker assigned to that user’s file. When a user uploads a torrent file to a site, such as those hosted by Fung, it does not also upload the original song or movie file. Rather, the copy available on the user’s hard drive is made available to other website users whenever the user is connected to the Internet. Fung’s sites actively collect torrent files and encourage users to download the files, including those known to be copyrighted. For instance, two of the websites featured lists showing available torrents for the top 20 television shows or box-office movies, among others. The other included a list of the top searches on the site. The sites make money via advertising. Fung also moderated a forum where he would address issues with files and make suggestions for files to download. Columbia Pictures Industries (Columbia) (plaintiff) filed suit against Fung for contributory copyright infringement on a theory of inducement liability. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Columbia and found that the safe-harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) did not apply. Fung appealed the decision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Berzon, J.)

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