ISOHunt search site lawsuit could make Google, Yahoo, others illegal

Canada – The owner of the ISOHunt search engine website (used specifically to find Bittorents submitted by users) is fighting the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) in court against claims that his site pirates music. The company’s president, Gary Fung, wants Canada’s Supreme Court to rule on the legality of search engines being used to identify material which may ultimately be used illegally to determine if they, too, are culpable.

Fung has reported receiving numerous legal threats from the CRIA, the Canadian equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In response, he is fighting back in court, launching a lawsuit of his own.

The ruling could have very significant implications. Google, for example, can be used today to find pornography very easily — as can Yahoo, MSN, etc. In most states, viewing pornography below a certain age (typically 18) is illegal, yet it is very easy to bypass those kinds of security features on websites linked directly from Google searches. So is Google culpable for presenting material which may be used illegally? That’s essentially the very question Fung wants addressed.

Fung believes that using ISOHunt in a similar way to find Bittorrent sites (which may or may not carry materials that could be used illegally, and which may or may not ultimately result in illegal materials use) is no different. And his argument is that a search engine capable of finding potentially illegal material does not a crime make.

In this way, he is forcing the issue to be resolved by the highest court in Canada.

Fung’s argument is very straight-forward — that his website never touches any of the files exchanged via Bittorrent applications, which are peer-to-peer and must be setup or launched externally to his page’s search results. And while his site is used to find the files, his participation in the experience ends there. A similar comparison could be drawn from asking some guy down the street where to buy drugs. That person might know, might even tell you, but until you actually go and buy drugs there no crime has been committed because having information is not illegal.

Fung is currently engaged in lawsuits with the Motion Picture Association of America, with court proceedings there lasting over a year.

See IT Examiner.