Richmond man takes on Hollywood in piracy case

A Richmond, B.C., man has become the target of the Hollywood movie industry in its battles against piracy.

A Richmond, B.C., man has become the target of the Hollywood movie industry in its battles against piracy.

Gary Fung is being sued by the Motion Picture Association of America, which says he is purposely violating film copyrights.

Fung, a 23-year-old computer whiz, operates the website isoHunt.

But Fung says he doesn't steal movies. IsoHunt is a search engine that uses BitTorrent technology so people can find video files that are somewhere on the internet.

His Los Angeles-based lawyer, Ira Rothken, says the studios' case is weak because Fung does not distribute copyrighted files — he simply tells you how to find them.

Fung himself says the studios could make tons of money if they embraced the new technology — but stopping it, he says, is impossible.

"We not going to run, we not going to shut down, and even if they manage to shut us down there's no way to stop the technology and no way for them to stop the internet," he told CBC Television.

The Hollywood studios say millions of people are using the internet to steal films, and that's why they've launched lawsuits around the world against the operators of websites like Fung's.

"There are some people who are not entering into negotiations, not paying licensing fees, don't give a rip about creativity, who are content to steal that product and send it out on the internet," John Malcolm of the Motion Picture Association of America, told CBC.

"That is wrong, that is illegal and that is why we take action."

Fung has 170,000 gigabytes of movies indexed on his website, including hot new properties such as The Da Vinci Code and Mission Impossible III.

"What I see is, basically, the internet taking over phone networks and TV and movies and music, all forms of media," he said.

He estimates seven million people a month use his search engine.

Fung's website backs the demand of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition for an end to lawsuits against music fans and an end to digital locks on music files.

Online piracy is costing Hollywood $2 billion US annually, according to estimates by the Motion Picture Association.

But Fung says the studios should stop fighting technology and join the parade — by selling their movies online, just as music is sold now.

"If they can harness that power to their advantage they can reach a much bigger audience at a much cheaper cost," he said.

But the association is prepared to let the lawsuit wend its way through the court system, while people from around the world turn to Fung's site to find movies.

"Mr. Fung has chosen not to enter into any negotiations with anybody, but rather to steal that creativity and to use it for his own ends in an unlawful manner," Malcolm said.