A clear message to all torrent websites hosted on the US soil was sent all over the world today: A federal judge is hitting the shuttered TorrentSpy service with a $111 million penalty for facilitating the infringement of thousands of copyrighted works. U.S. District Judge Florence -Marie Cooper in Los Angeles, ruling in a case brought by the Motion Picture Association of America, said site operator Justin Bunnell and associates must pay the maximum $30,000 for “each of the 3,699 infringements shown.” The case, producing what is among the largest fines in copyright history, was bolstered after the MPAA allegedly paid a hacker $15,000 for internal TorrentSpy e-mails and correspondence.
“This substantial money judgment sends a strong message about the illegality of these sites,” MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman said in a statement. TorrentSpy, a U.S.-based torrent tacking service, shuttered in March after it lost its case against the MPAA. TorrentSpy did not lose on the merits, but defaulted after it failed to produce internal records. No U.S. case has squarely addressed the legalities of BitTorrent tracking services, although one case is nearing a resolution. Judge Cooper ordered TorrentSpy permanently shuttered. TorrentSpy attorney Ira Rothken was not immediately available for comment. He has appealed the default order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.