Hotfile, Warner Bros. Copyright Fight Heats Up

Digital locker service Hotfile was sued by movie studios last year for allegedly enticing users to infringe copyright. The company fired back with a lawsuit against one of the studios -- Warner Bros. -- for allegedly filing bogus takedown notices.

Both of those matters are now heating up in court. The MPAA says it's entitled to summary judgment against Hotfile, which it compares to Megaupload -- a cyberlocker recently shut down by the federal authorities for allegedly engaging in criminal copyright infringement. Hotfile counters that it isn't responsible for piracy by users, arguing that it takes down infringing content upon request.

Hotfile also says that it's entitled to win its case against Warner Bros, which allegedly used an automated takedown tool -- provided by Hotfile itself-- to remove thousands of files that were owned by other companies. For instance, the company deleted links with the words "the box" in the title even where the content was unrelated to the Warner movie "The Box," according to court papers. Hotfile says its records show that that Warner took down the audio book "Cancer: Out Of The Box," By Ty M. Bollinger, as well as the BBC show "The Box that Saved Britain."

While Warner Bros. admits that some of its takedown notices were "mistakes," the company argues that it shouldn't be held liable. "Of the innumerable takedown notices Warner sent to Hotfile, covering roughly a million files, a tiny percentage contained errors," Warner Bros says in its court papers. But, the studio adds, "Hotfile cannot meet its burden of proving Warner 'knowingly misrepresented' anything in even a single takedown notice. Any mistakes were just that -- mistakes."

The studio adds that it uses an automated system to identify infringement, arguing that it "would be impossible to download each file for the thousands of notices Warner sends on a daily basis."

The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation is unimpressed with those excuses. On Monday, the organization filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Warner should be held liable for sending takedowns without a good faith belief that the notices were justified. "Warner claims that these were simple 'mistakes,' and that it cannot be held accountable for its misrepresentations because, in essence, its system design does not allow for a deliberate lie," the EFF argues. "Warner gets it exactly backwards: the problem is that it does not appear that its system could have provided a sufficient basis for Warner to form the requisite good faith belief."

Tags: copyright
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