"Harry Potter" film

Alan Rickman plays professor Severus Snape in the Warner Bros. Pictures movie "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2." The movie was among the films illegally downloaded via the Hotfile website, according to the MPAA. (Jaap Buitendijk)

In a victory for Hollywood's anti-piracy efforts, the trade group representing the major studios has won a legal fight against Hotfile, one of the largest file sharing sites on the Internet.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday  found Hotfile liable for copyright infringement and rejected Hotfile’s defense under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The court further held that Hotfile’s principal, Anton Titov, was personally liable for Hotfile’s infringement as well. 

This case marked the first time that a U.S. court has ruled on whether so-called cyberlockers like Hotfile can be held liable for their infringing business practices.

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“This decision sends a clear signal that businesses like Hotfile that are built on a foundation of stolen works will be held accountable for the damage they do both to the hardworking people in the creative industries and to a secure, legitimate Internet,” said former Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. 

“We applaud the court for recognizing that Hotfile was not simply a storage locker, but an entire business model built on mass distribution of stolen content,'' Dodd added. "Today’s decision is a victory for all of the men and women who work hard to create our favorite movies and TV shows, and it’s a victory for audiences who deserve to feel confident that the content they’re watching online is high quality, legitimate and secure.”

The MPAA in February 2011 filed a lawsuit against Hotfile and Titov, a  Florida resident, alleging they violated federal copyright infringement laws by profiting from illegal downloads of movies and TV shows.

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Hotfile incentivizes users to upload files containing illegal copies of movies and TV shows to its servers and to third-partly sites so that consumers can download the stolen content, in many cases tens of thousand of times, according to the MPAA. Hotfile profits by charging a monthly fee to users who download content from its servers.

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