LOS ANGELES  – A federal appeals panel in Pasadena Thursday issued a unanimous decision against the Canadian search engine isoHunt for “inducing” users to illegally download and distribute copyrighted movies and TV programs.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that isoHunt owner Gary Fung is liable for contributing to violations of federal copyright law.

Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount and other Hollywood studios sued Fung in Los Angeles federal court in 2006, alleging that isoHunt and other sites Fung operated helped Internet users find and watch copyrighted material without charge.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson granted the film companies summary judgment in 2009 and issued an injunction limiting Fung’s activities.

The appeals court affirmed Wilson’s ruling that Fung and isoHunt committed copyright infringement by helping users access copyrighted shows over the BitTorrent peer-to-peer network.

Further, the appellate court held that isoHunt and Fung were not protected by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

“This ruling affirms a core principle of copyright law: Those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions,” said Henry Hoberman, senior executive vice president and global general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America.

“It also strikes an important blow in the fight to preserve the jobs of millions of workers in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by rogue websites for their own profit,” Hoberman said.

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