May 7, 2008 // 6:21 pm
- After a federal judge awarded the MPAA a summary judgment against former BitTorrent tracker TorrentSpy late last year, the only question left was how much it would end up costing TorrentSpy's admins.
We've got our answer, and it comes in the form of a staggering $110 million damage award, or $30,000 in statutory damages for each of the nearly 3,700 files in the MPAA's complaint.
The MPAA announced the award in a press release
(PDF) earlier today.
"This substantial money judgment sends a strong message about the illegality of these sites," said Dan Glickman, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA. "The demise of TorrentSpy is a clear victory for the studios and demonstrates that such pirate sites will not be allowed to continue to operate without facing relentless litigation by copyright holders."
In addition to the damage award, TorrentSpy is also permanently enjoined against any future copyright infringement, a moot point given the fact that all that remains of the site is a farewell message citing a "hostile" legal climate in the US when it comes to user privacy and copyright.
TorrentSpy was sued by the MPAA in February 2006 and fought back with a countersuit of its own three months later. But even as the torrent tracker accused the MPAA of invasion of privacy, conspiracy, and unlawful business practices, TorrentSpy's admins were desperately trying to cover their tracks.
Save After the MPAA requested the full IP addresses of its users, TorrentSpy admins testified under oath that they were not available. But a March 2006 conversation between moderators on TorrentSpy's forum disclosed the fact that the site did have the ability to track IP addresses. In fact, other moderators testified that the tracker logged full IP addresses through March 2007. The admins also tried to redact names of movies from the forums after the lawsuit was filed, instead substituting labels such as "[some movie 1]."
Those actions rubbed the judge the wrong way. "Plaintiffs have convinced the Court that their ability to prove their case has been inalterably prejudiced by Defendants' willful spoliation of evidence, making terminating sanctions the only effective recourse," wrote Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in her decision. "The Court has concluded that Defendants' conduct constitutes spoliation and second, that termination of the case in favor of Plaintiffs is the proper sanction."
The $110 million award falls just short of the $115 million settlement between KaZaA creators Sharman Networks and the MPAA, RIAA, and IFPI. The size of the award may make other torrent sites sued by the MPAA think twice about settling.
isoHunt, which is hoping for a jury trial, is placing a big bet on its ability to convince another judge that it's little more than a search engine, and therefore in no way liable for any copyright infringement done by its users.