Large Piracy ‘Topsite’ Trial Ends in Suspended Sentences, ‘Disappointing’ Damages

Finland's largest ever Internet piracy case has come to an end with six men standing trial for running a so-called 'topsite'. Two were cleared by the court but four others were found guilty of distributing movies, music, TV shows, software and other media. They received suspended jail sentences of up to six months but rightsholders are disappointed after their six million euro damages claim - 900,000 euros from Microsoft alone - was reduced to just 45,000 euros.

‘Angel Falls’ was the name of a ‘warez topsite’, a system of servers used by higher-level Internet pirates.

These sites often develop into a source from where all kinds of unauthorized digital media cascade down into the public Internet and file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent.

Complaints were filed in September 2007 by rightsholders of a wide range of content and two months later the site was busted by authorities in Oulu, Finland. They discovered a network of 15 servers containing large quantities of movies, music (170,000 tracks on one server alone), TV shows, video games and software, plus books and other content.

More than 5.5 years later and six men were on trial for their alleged activities on the topsite between January 2006 and November 2007. It was to be the largest case of its type in Finland’s history.

Rightsholders, represented by Pirate Bay-nemesis anti-piracy group CIAPC (known locally as TTVK), said that the individuals running the Angel Falls topsite had caused immense damage to their business. They entered claims for damages totaling 6 million euros, of which 900,000 euros was submitted by Microsoft alone.

The Oulu District Court heard that the topsite was well-organized, with tasks spread between the defendants in order to create an efficient file-sharing system. In addition to international material, Angel Falls was said to have specialized in local content and during 2006 carried copies of nearly all domestically produced movies and artist discographies.

Yesterday the Court handed down its ruling. A 32-year-old man, said to be the founder of the topsite, was handed a six month suspended prison sentence. Two others, also in their early thirties, we given four month suspended sentences. A third received a sentence of 50 days. Two others were found not guilty.

Although the rightsholders involved in the case are pleased that convictions were achieved, they appear somewhat disappointed with the damages award handed down by the Court. Their collective claims amounted to around six million euros but the Court felt that 45,000 euros was an appropriate amount.

“We are pleased the court held clear criminal activity had taken place,” says CIAPC Assistant Director Jaana Pihkala.

Hinting at an appeal, Pihkala said that considering the scope of the defendants’ activities and the damage caused, the anti-piracy group expected a higher compensation award.

“We are now looking carefully look at the judgment and possible ways forward,” Pihkala concludes.

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