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[Table] IAmA: I am Gary Fung/IH, founder programmer of isoHunt.com, legal target practice of Hollywood and the Canadian recording industry - AMAA

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Date: 2012-05-06
Link to submission (Has self-text)
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Questions Answers
How do you see isohunt.com compared thepiratebay.se? Rivals? Partners? Both. I'm not for their antics for utter disregard of copyright (Link to static.thepiratebay.se) we follow the DMCA. But I respect much of the policies of the Pirate Parties, and their recent book advocating shortening of copyright terms and sane copyright law reform, but not abolishment.
If you could update, revamp, or otherwise change the torrent protocol what would you like to see? P2P streaming ability. BitTorrent Inc. is working on that.
Is torrenting the final step in peer to peer file sharing? It's final in its openness. It's an open protocol, just like the WWW and history shows open protocols tend to stick around. It can evolve, new clients can implement new ideas, and that's what an open protocol allows. No prior P2P network since Napster is like it in its openness and that is what lasts beyond technical implementations.
Do you think it is possible or worthwhile to change the denotation of torrenting with piracy? Possible yes, easy no. I believe its "stigma" would change when more creators find new ways to take advantage of media sharing on the Internet, and new ways to monetize, directly or not. I'm always considering new possibilities.
How detailed are your logs and how do you curate and or control the torrents listed? We keep logs only for detecting suspicious network activity and bad bots, in aggregate. We don't curate or moderate any torrent, I don't believe that's the job of any search engine. Algorithmic ranking of search results yes but not curation, at least not by us. We have user votes on torrents similar to reddit and that factors into our ranking so you can call it communal curation.
Do you see yourself as a likeable outlaw evading an evil empire, or more of a morally ambiguous dark shadow gangster type...with a heart of gold? Aren't they the same thing? How about a reluctant revolutionary trying to tell the amoral empire to wake up.
Do you think that the future is bright for file sharing? Or in other words, how long do you think the crusade against file sharing will last for? Edit: I accidentally an extra word. As long as the uncensored and unrestricted Internet exists.
How do you stay afloat despite the legal threats? Do you have a large legal staff? We have lawyers in both Canada and the US genuinely excited about what our 2 cases mean, as our case is complicated but precedent setting. Having big cases is somewhat a good thing it turns out. We also have some academic support, and will especially need more with our Canadian case arguing the constitutional issues.
Hey Gary. I interviewed you a few years ago for an academic thesis about copyright and culture. I don't know if its of any interest to you, but its here now. Cheers man, and good luck. Cool!
An excited lawyer? Sounds expensive... Also are you hiring. Substitute excited for intellectually stimulated.
Where do you see the copyright industry going if your suit is successful? Work with us. If you can't fight them, join them. Monetize sharing activity already there. At least that's what I want to see. It worked for the VCR.
What do you think about software patents? Software patents are 99% frivolous and does more harm than good. They should die.
Why did you found isoHunt? Programming hobby when I was in university.
How do you foresee isoHunt evolving to the response and consequences of the case? Other than more court ordered censorship, I don't know.
How big is the team you work with? Is there a physical office? 5 of us and no office, we aren't all in the same city/country.
What is your general legal argument in the cases? What do you think are the important legal similarities/differences to cases like Napster and Megavideo? What precedents are you using to support your case? Link to www.scribd.com is already a good summary of arguments we've made previously in our US case.
Napster and Megavideo are networks into themselves, and/or host actual copyrighted content. isoHunt is a search engine of links on a pre-existing network (WWW).
Sony Betamax is a good precedent that copyright should not trump technological progress. For copyright, search engines and freedom of expression/constitutional issues specifically, there is no precedent we know of.
What is the worst threat you have received? Notice to take down some torrents from MS, just because they were the first (in 2004 I believe). We get all sorts of requests since then and one isn't really worse than another until Hollywood actually sued.
5 Favourite albums and movies? Laputa soundtrack (all the ones by Jo Hisaishi really), Mirrorball (Mclachlan), Shawshank redemption, Matrix, Contact.
Do you watch Community? No.
Is there anyway you can fix it so when I click to open a torrent in a new tab, the original tab doesnt go directly to the same torrent? Also thank you for being awesome Will see about that. Seems to be Chrome specific bug.
Would you ever steal a car, handbag, television or movie? No (I wouldn't), no, (I wouldn't), no (no one can), no (no one can)
Quantcast says your site gets about 23.6 million unique visitors per month. According to your analytics, is that even close? More. Quantcast is conservative.
How many web and DB servers do you use? Is this running on a LAMP stack or something else entirely? What kind of caching technologies do you implement? 9 web servers (Lighttpd and PHP), 5 databases (Mysql), 5 fulltext searchers (Lucene), Memcached for caching on each web server. All spread between 2 colos, in Canada and Sweden. All run Linux of course (Gentoo)
What kind of technical challenges have you encountered scaling up? Mysql. It's a PITA. Everything else is relatively easy to scale horizontally.
What do you think of Kim Dotcom? Interesting showman. I want to see what actual evidence they have if any, on charging him with racketeering and money laundering. Those are what makes a big criminal case, not mere copyright.
What do you think was his biggest mistake and what do you plan to do to avoid those mistakes? Paying uploaders.
Do you think a actual profitable business model could ever arise from torrents and P2P? If so, are you working on it? I'm still looking for it. The Internet and law is evolving, so what wasn't possible before maybe possible later.
Also, the more Tv shows, movies, Games are pirated the less the profit the companies that produced them make and the lower the quality of the next product or even the failure and closure of said company. what do you think of that concept ? do you think your participating in the decline of the general quality of the entertainment materials? Your premise is flawed. Digital sharing is not a zero-sum game. The creative industries are thriving, not despite of file sharing but I argue, because of it.
What type of resources do you have at your disposal to oppose issues such as ACTA/CISPA, etc? You. We are legion. (not that I'm endorsing a certain hacker collective)
What do you see in the future of the internet? What will be the next big thing? Will websites like yours ever die? Also, can you explain how your website affects the movie, music, and software business in a positive way? The internet is fundamentally made for sharing. Facebook is the darling of the Net right now and that's all about sharing. Anything new I can dream of would be about connecting people with information. For isoHunt, who knows. But it's over 9 years old and I certainly like it to stick around.
Are you receiving any notable help from outside parties in your lawsuits? IE; people hoping for favorable precedent? Google came and backstabbed us (mostly). We certainly welcome better interveners/amicus.
Link to torrentfreak.com. No, they filed an amicus in our case, pretending they are helping us before filing it. They basically said we shouldn't qualify for the DMCA safe harbor because we are a "pirate site". Perhaps they got annoyed by our comparison with Google and statistical analysis showing over 95% overlap that all torrents searchable on isohunt (based on info_hashes) are also searchable on Google (and Yahoo). I don't have their amicus on hand, it is on public dockets in the online database of the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals (US).
Google is the new MS. They should get some antitrust probes up their behind.
Sorry a bit late but I think this will explain Link to torrentfreak.com Yup, that.
Have you met the people who run piratebay? Who are the ninjas that run tpb? =b.
What changes would you like to see(to all industries that pirating affects), realistically, that would make a website like isohunt no longer controversial or needed? Worldwide simultaneous release, buying and streaming/downloading at a better than physical retail price, and no DRM.
Use isoHunt and other sharing sites as promotional networks.
Profit!
Do you think you will win your current legal case? We are certainly trying.
Don't despair, I successfully sued the Canadian Government on the grounds of slavery. Keep in touch with the players in legal academia and you'll be fine. You may even score some legal-groupie pussy (yes, it's a thing). I haven't sued the government yet, just inviting them to the party for now.
Define "legal-groupie pussy"?
Did you ever think your site would blow up the way it has? are you rich? what kinds of stuff CANT you talk about, so we wont ask those things? Among top 200 websites on the internet, no. It got bigger than what I expect. I won't talk numbers on our finances, I've updated in my OP ;)
Are you technical or business person? if technical how much do you contribute in actually production code? and if business what are your qualifications/previous experience in management?? I know this sounds like an interview but really, i am interested to know if you don't mind :) I've been working on it by myself as a hobby for a while since 2003. About 80% of isoHunt's code is still by me currently and I maintain my own soup. I am a business person in terms of finances, talking to lawyers, biz dev, etc. I wear many hats.
Qualifications? I was studying Engineering Physics. isoHunt is my qualification when it comes to business or tech.
You are unfortunately not standing on the shoulders of giants (rather the giants are trying to stand on you), and I commend you for how well you've done so far. Is there any way to donate for your legal battle? Thanks, but we aren't really collecting donations right now. That may change as our case requires.
What can we do to support a free internet in your opinion? Besides donating money to you and your legal battles or voicing an opinion on recent legislation (I'm in the U.S.). How do we collectivize and become a stronger community? Internet communities like reddit here is certainly great. And we've seen how people use Facebook and Twitter in revolutions. The important thing is we stay on top of new attempts at censoring the free Internet and protest against it, and not after they already become law.
Who would you say is isoHunt's target audience? And why? Every man, woman and child in the known universe.
How fast is your internet connection? Especially upload. What operating System do you use? My personal connection? 2.5 mbit upload. Mac OS X.
Would you download a car? Yes. Beam me up Scotty.
Which is better? Torrent or magnet? And why? They are the same thing technically.
Has the growing popularity of Spotify lessened music piracy? Whatchoo think about that? I don't have data for or against it.
Have you ever gotten any support from hollywood? or has any attention from them always been negative? Not from Hollywood/MPAA, which I'm not including indie film makers.
Are you scared about ending up in prison or financially ruined? Sure.
Hi Gary, I read that isoHunt was (originally?) based in Vancouver. If that's true, I just wanted to say that's awesome, and cheers from a hometown fan. :) Yes, me and business that runs isoHunt is in Vancouver. Best city in the world even if the nucks lost ;)
Since the site is Canadian, is there anything Canadians can do in particular to support your cause (politically, etc.)? Our Canadian case is still brewing. I'll update on Link to www.facebook.com and our frontpage on developments should we need your support, and thanks.
What is your take on copyright? How do you think an artist can get payed for his/het efforts? Copyright should exist, but without the crap on protecting DRM nobody wants (neither most business or consumer) and with a more sane copyright term. Copyright started out with 14 years centuries ago, that seems to be a good number instead of life + 70 years and perpetually getting extended. A copyright registration system to identify what digital content belongs to who would be useful with cases like ours. How an artist get paid? Live performance, merchandize, internet radio royalties and variants with collectives. The creative industries are already live and kicking, I don't see point of arguing how to rescue them. See Link to www.reddit.com
What maintains your motivation to continue, despite pressure from outdated distribution channels i.e movie studio's and record labels? how soon do you think these outdated channels of distribution will accept and adopt peer to peer distribution of media? I want to see it through to the end? And eventually, I hope. They had to with the VCR.
Thanks for all you have done for us all this years, and for this AMA. You already replied to all the most interesting questions, so I'm left with asking a less interesting one. Do you believe a service like this would benefit the torrenting community - either as a service allowing to bypass unacceptable business models while still compensating creators, or at least as a method to show the good will of the community? I was thinking something similar. The problem with something like this is how do you create an automated system and ensure reasonable authenticity that files/torrents A-E is copyrighted by author Z? It's a problem when you are sending money their way. But the idea is certainly been on my mind. Think a cross between Pinterest with Kickstarter, associating torrents/media with their creators and ways of promoting them, downloading media and paying them.
Yes, and they are also using it on a scale no one has EVER used before. Again, 99.9999999% of applications will NEVER run into scaling issues, especially on that magnitude. You can't possibly compare an enterprise product like Oracle, that has INSANE licensing costs to a FREE database like MySQL. Facebook wouldn't be anywhere it is today if they were paying Oracle licensing. Their pricing would have scaled them into bankruptcy. There is a reason MySQL is the most prolific db on the internet. Like you said, a billion dollar company could handle Oracles money now. But why bother? Mysql is prolific not because it's great technically, but because it's free and fast/simple in the day. Large companies like Google and Facebook uses it for legacy reasons, and they don't use it really as "SQL" so it's not really flattering. It has its uses but if I'm to do isoHunt all over again, I'd be using either Postgresql or Mongodb. (prior has same scaling problems but more consistent and less buggy, latter is a different animal)
How do you know it does not affect sales? Your comments about internet merchandising and gigging are truly ridiculous in many cases, some performers cannot do that to make money. Link to www.reddit.com
Imagine 5 years to write a masterpiece and you make a few thousand bucks cause 80-90% of the people are downloading it for free? It's a hypothetical yes but could you really and truly justify that in any way, shape or form? Obviously I'm talking about general trends and not specific cases.
What can you tell me about these busty russian brides who are waiting to meet me? You should write them some love letters and find out.
Sorry if someone asked this and I didn't see (considering there are 500+ comments). What is your favorite language for writing web applications? Do you use any frameworks? How about your DB engine? IsoHunt runs mostly on PHP, it's a simple and performant language. Ruby is elegant and we've worked with that. Currently, Node.js is the new awesome.
Do you think that people should be able to download copyrighted material? If not, what do you think would be a reasonable compromise between the copyright holders and the general public? Are videos of cute kittens copyrighted by some cat owner? Yes. Is it a problem being shared online? No.
Everything is copyrighted by someone somewhere, so it's a moot topic. Compromise lies in communication and identification of wishes of copyright holders with their associated files, with Internet intermediaries like us.
What do you think of Louis C's Live at the beacon? Do you think if Hollywood sold digital copies for cheap they would still make just as much money or more like Louis did? Why would it work for Louis and not for Hollywood? He's a comedian, not a magician.
Did you ever receive death threats or hateful letters from any political nut-cases? Hateful yes, death threats not yet.
When you were creating isoHunt.com, did you had second thoughts? If yes, what did you said to yourself in order to ignore them? Perhaps I didn't have enough second thoughts.
off, you guys are awesome... the second most awesome torrent site, in my opinion, right after the piratebay. Now, I've been a user of the piratebay, since I've discovered torrenting and I am very loyal to the site; what makes your site better? Convince me. Our search is better and bigger. We index torrents on hundreds of sites, TPB is one of them: Link to isohunt.com
If you had to recommend one torrent file for download to a complete stranger, what would it be? (Please also include a link) Link to isohunt.com
It's a great book.
Would you be interested on advising the creation of a Web 2.0 'copyleft' oriented site? It could include integration with isohunt. We welcome use of our API: Link to isohunt.com
I have something I wanted to ask you mr IsoHunt. What is your favorite kind of beer? Because if you ever stop by my hometown here in West Coast BC, I'd gladly treat you to one. Honey brown is good, or something light. I'm west coast BC too btw ;)
Have you considered taking bitcoin donations? Considered yes. But paying with it was rather convoluted?
If you win you and every person in high management should create a music album to raise money for the struggling record companies. The songs being your own covers of every single top selling track from each record company that sued you. And you should sell it for a penny. Hah, poetic justice.
by a not-so-emotional-yet-grateful woman. Group hug.
I don't know you, I don't know that I will ever know you, but on the off chance I ever meet you in person (and/or your team) i'd love to buy you a beer. Thank you. Cheers.
Trick question. AXXo who?
As someone who is trying to make it as a content producer in Hollywood, I'd just like to say THANK YOU. Obscurity is a far more dangerous fate then piracy ever will be, thank you for facilitating the spread of ideas, art, and culture. This is truly the future. We need more free thinking people like you.
Endure. Things are gonna get worst. The most dangerous person is that who has nothing to lose. That's quotable.
No this is the district court's summary judgment, prior to the 9th circuit court of appeal.
Last updated: 2012-05-10 16:55 UTC
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