After six years, the criminal proceedings against P2P index site ShareConnector have finally come to an end, much to the embarrassment of the Dutch Department of Justice. The Court dismissed the case and ruled that the Public Prosecutor relied too much on evidence provided by anti-piracy outfit BREIN, and failed to do a proper investigation of its own.
In the early 2000s, ShareConnector was one of the largest P2P index sites, but this status came to an abrupt end when it was raided in 2004. Since then the operator of the site has been going through various legal battles, of both civil and criminal nature.
In the criminal case the operator of ShareConnector, aDi, came out as the winner in 2007 and was released from all charges. However, the Department of Justice decided to appeal the case two years later and charged aDi and six other admins with membership of a criminal organization and assisting in the distribution of copyrighted material.
However, instead of getting a conviction this time around the case turned into a total embarrassment for the Department of Justice. Last summer the court decided to reopen the case and summoned the public prosecutor as it doubted the legitimacy of the criminal prosecution which relied on evidence brought in by local anti-piracy outfit BREIN.
Yesterday the lengthy court battle came to an end with the Court of The Hague dismissing the case (Dutch).
The Court concluded that the authorities failed to provide any evidence to prove ShareConnector was involved in mass copyright infringement, nor enough to prove that it was criminal in nature. In addition, the judge ruled that the initial arrests were unlawful as the evidence provided by BREIN was insufficient.
The Court ruled that the public prosecutor should have conducted an independent investigation instead of relying blindly on the ‘evidence’ provided by BREIN. Since this didn’t happen, the evidence used in the case was seen as illegitimate.
“It’s incredible that it took the court six years and numerous trials to conclude that the allegations from BREIN should not be taken seriously. It was a setup from the very beginning since the deaf from BREIN didn’t want to play clean and instead used the blind dogs from the Department of Justice,” aDi told TorrentFreak in a response. “This is a victory,” he added, “for now and for the future.”
In a response to the dismissed case BREIN’s head Tim Kuik came out with a statement emphasizing that ShareConnector itself was found to be an unlawful service.
BREIN won their civil case against the site in March this year. In that case the court ruled that the operator of ShareConnector wasn’t guilty of copyright infringement, but that the site must remain closed for good since it facilitated copyright infringement.
The ShareConnector case touches on a recurring topic in file-sharing related investigations – the close cooperation between private anti-piracy groups and judicial authorities. When an arrest is made or a raid is carried out, the police are often assisted by members of the local anti-piracy lobby group.
It sometimes appears as if BREIN, MPAA, RIAA, BPI and others are part of the authorities, but in fact they have their own agenda and absolutely no reason to be neutral investigators. It’s good to see that the Court of The Hague spotted this illegitimate process in the ShareConnector case. The Department of Justice is not a puppet of anti-piracy outfits.