Big Bodyguards for Isohunt’s Gary Fung

When confronted by a huge competitor, most businesses fold up shop. Not Isohunt's Gary Fung

When confronted by a huge competitor, most businesses fold up shop. Not Isohunt’s Gary Fung

When confronted by a huge and aggressive competitor, most small business operators simply fold up and go away. But not Gary Fung, 25, of Richmond. He turns the aggression into a marketing moment. Fung runs a small company called IsoHunt Web Technologies, which operates, a search engine for BitTorrent files. BitTorrent is sharing software used to download and upload virtually every type of media, including music, movies, computer software and e-books. The site currently links to more than 1.5 million files online, and is routinely listed as one of the top 200 visited sites on the Web. This has, of course, drawn the wrath of industries most affected by downloading, who are ferocious about protecting their territory.

Fung is being sued by the Motion Picture Association of America, and last year was told to cease and desist by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) which goes after anybody it thinks is pirating music. Rather than fade away, however, Fung is using the associations’ own might against them. Claiming he’s only doing in a niche what giant search engines like Google and Yahoo do – cataloguing information (he doesn’t store any files) – he’s asked the Supreme Court of BC to rule on whether he is violating the Copyright Act.

Like many people, I thought this question of piracy was long past, and that big media companies had figured out how to deal with copyright issues. Apparently not, and we’ll have to see what the courts think about it all. But I have to applaud Fung for the creative way in which he turned the attacks into a publicity stunt that has probably made his little search engine ten times more well known than it was. Also, he may have cunningly enlisted the aid of some really big bodyguards. If the ruling goes against him, the big search engines will also be affected. Faced with copyright attacks on their own information cataloguing systems, they may have no choice but to join him. Is Fung right, or is he wrong? What do you think?