Cyberlockers under fire as the MPAA sues Hotfile

Over the past several years, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has initiated several lawsuits against BitTorrent services in an attempt to thwart the illegal sharing of copied films. Recently, however, their sights have shifted to include increasingly popular cloud-based “cyberlockers”, with the trade group labeling MegaUpload and MegaVideo as “piracy havens” last month, and now bringing legal action against Hotfile.

The movie industry trade group announced the newly-filed lawsuit in a press release posted Wednesday on their website.

“In less than two years Hotfile has become one of the 100 most trafficked sites in the world.  That is a direct result of the massive digital theft that Hotfile promotes. Everyday Hotfile is responsible for the theft of thousands of MPAA member companies movies and TV shows – including movies still playing in theaters – many of which are stolen repeatedly, thousands of times a day, every single day,” claims MPAA General Counsel & Chief Content Protection Officer Daniel Mandil. “The theft taking place on Hotfile is unmistakable. Their files are indeed ‘hot’ as in ‘stolen’. It’s wrong and it must stop.”

MPAA officials chose to file their suit after determining that Hotfile did not meet the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s qualifications for safe harbor protection under the law.

“Defendants profit handsomely from this copyright infringement by charging a monthly fee to users who wish to download content from Hotfile’s servers,” reads the official complaint filed in the U.S.District Court in the Southern District of Florida.  “In other words, defendants pay people to put infringing copies of plaintiffs’ popular works on Hotfile’s computer servers, and then use the lure of those copyrighted works (and the copyrighted works of others) to entice users to pay defendants for the privilege of accessing and downloading the works from defendants’ computer servers.”

This makes the second copyright infringement suit brought against Hotfile since the beginning of this year. Last month, TorrentFreak reported that copyright holder Liberty Media had suit against the cyberlocker service and 1000 of its users, while requesting that PayPal cease all processing of the service’s payments.

“ cleverly avoids cataloging or indexing the files in order to be willfully blind to their users’ uploads and downloads, while profiting from the site’s web traffic,” that complaint alleged.

It’s not likely that either of these lawsuits will be resolved quickly, especially if Hotfile’s owner, Anton Titov decides to put up a fight. The MPAA’s infringement case against BitTorrent service Isohunt is currently in its fifth year, with an appeal currently pending.

Is Hotfile a deliberate hotbed of piracy or just an innocent cloud-based file-sharing service? We’ll see what the courts have to say about it over the next several months.