This really is not a huge surprise, but in the IsoHunt case the judge has now ordered site operator Gary Fung to magically stop anyone from infringing (Update: as noted in the comments this is just a “proposed” order, but it seems likely that this is where the judge is heading). It is, as Fung notes, effectively a shut down order. There’s no legitimate way for Fung to magically know what content is infringing and what is not, since his system is really no different than a search engine. While the original ruling concerned a few of Fung’s actions that the judge claimed were inducing, it looks like the judge won’t even give Fung a chance to try to set up a non-inducing search engine.
There are some odd statements in the ruling, including the judge claiming:
“It is axiomatic that the availability of free infringing copies of plaintiffs’ works through defendants’ websites irreparably undermines the growing legitimate market for consumers to purchase access to the same works,”
There’s just one (big) problem with that. It is not at all axiomatic. We’ve seen many content creators embrace file sharing as part of a legitimate market, and in doing so, make more money. So the judge is claiming something that is a universal truth that is false. That seems quite troubling.
Separately, the ruling seems to suggest that a keyword filter might stop the infringement. That takes me back. Judge Patel in the original Napster case made the same demand, and it was a disaster, because a keyword filter is useless.
But the bigger issue is that the judge seems to have gone way beyond what the law actually says and allows in this situation. The site can be barred for inducing infringement, but that doesn’t mean a site automatically must block anything that might be infringing.