The website — and its principal, Anton Titov — will be held liable for user infringement
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday found Hotfile, one of the world's most trafficked infringing sites, liable for copyright infringement.
It rejected Hotfile's defense under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and held that its principal, Anton Titov, was personally liable for the infringement.
Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, cheered the decision on behalf of member studios.
"We applaud the court for recognizing that Hotfile was not simply a storage locker, but an entire business model built on mass distribution of stolen content," the former senator said, calling the decision "a victory for all of the men and women who work hard to create our favorite movies and TV shows."
Hotfile pays users to upload files containing illegal copies of movies and TV shows to its servers, and to post the links on third-party sites, so that other users could download the content.
Though it claimed to be a legitimate storage service, Hotfile did not pay for personal files and documents. The website's incentive structure meant that uploaders of content were identified by copyright owners as infringers. Hotfile protected those infringers because those users were the foundation of its system — they drove the site's traffic by offering stolen works, the MPAA said.
As the Court found, "Hotfile was successful in large part because it did not control infringement activity on its system."
The Court's opinion will be made public in two weeks, once confidential and proprietary information has been redacted.
This case marks the first time that a U.S. court has ruled on whether so-called cyberlockers can be held liable for their infringing business practices.