(Mar. 9, 2010) On February 11, 2010, the Supreme Court of Iceland upheld an injunction imposed in November 2007 against Istorrent (www.torrent.is), the country's largest torrent (file-sharing) website, and its operator, Svavar Lúthersson, and ordered Istorrent to pay ISK700,000 (about US$5,415) to the plaintiff for litigation costs. The website reportedly facilitated distribution of music and film in violation of copyrights. (Icelandic Supreme Court Upholds Injunction Against Torrent Site, MI2N, Mar. 2, 2010, available at http://www.mi2n.com/press.php3?press_nb=127309.) The Court ruled that the defendant should pay ISK700,000 (US$5,415) to the plaintiff for litigation costs.
The Performing Rights Society (PRS) of Iceland, an association of copyright holders, had obtained the original injunction. A PRS representative reportedly called the ruling a landmark decision, because it was the first time that the Court had held such an injunction to be legal. (Iceland High Court Upholds Website Injunction, 39 PRIVACY LAW WATCH, Mar. 2, 2010, Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) online subscription news service.)
The Court ruled the website to be illegal under the Electronic Commerce and Other Electronic Services Act (No. 30 of 2002) (for the text in English translation, see Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism website, http://eng.idnadarraduneyti.is/laws-and-regulations/nr/1270 (last visited Mar. 3, 2010)). The Court held that the Act's limits on liability “do not apply if a service specifically promotes violation of material that is protected under the copyright law” and that “[t]hose making copyrighted material available on the internet … should be regarded as publishing the material themselves within the meaning of the act,” thereby violating copyright holders' exclusive rights. (BNA, supra.) Thus, the website owner was deemed liable by the Court because he knew his conduct to be unlawful, even though the user conduct was primarily responsible for the infringements. (Id.; for the text of the ruling, see Istorrent ehf. og Svavar Lúthersson, Nr. 214/2009 [in Icelandic], Hæstiréttur Íslands [Supreme Court of Iceland] website, Feb. 11, 2010, available at http://www.haestirettur.is/domar?nr=6419&leit=t.)
In May 2008, a previous case brought by Iceland's movie and music community seeking to obtain an injunction against Istorrent was dismissed by the Supreme Court “because of legal formalities”; some of the plaintiffs apparently had no legal grounds to pursue the injunction. To save their case, the prosecution had tried to switch plaintiffs, whereupon the Court “flat out dismissed it.” (Ben Jones, Victorious BitTorrent Tracker to Return, TORRENTFREAK, May 10, 2008, available at http://torrentfreak.com/icelandic-torrent-site-victory-080510/.) Although he was happy with that decision, Istorrent owner Svavar Kjarrval acknowledged at the time that “[t]his ruling doesn't state that torrent sites are legal so there is still no certainty as to their legality.” (Id.)