The former administrator of a 65,000 member private BitTorrent tracker who earned money from site donations without declaring it as income has been sentenced. The 35-year-old, a farmer who alleged spent some of the money on converting a pigsty into a datacenter, said that he believed his site was legal and only his users were committing offenses. The Court of Appeal disagreed and sentenced him to a year in jail along with hefty fines.
While there are undoubtedly file-sharing sites in existence operated as individuals’ sole source of income, many sites are run as side-projects by people in full-time employment elsewhere.
It’s common for sites to be run by people employed in the computing industry or by those still in education and hoping to get into that area in the future. However, a case brought to a conclusion yesterday is probably the first in which the accused was a farmer.
The case, brought by Antipiratbyran and the IFPI, dates back to December 2011 and claims that the defendant, a man from Sweden, was responsible for administering the PowerBits private BitTorrent tracker between 2007 and 2009.
As is so often the case, the plaintiffs in the case claimed that PowerBits was a “commercial file-sharing service” and its admin “regularly received and assimilated payments from the users.”
Those payments took the form of donations from PowerBits users but were framed as direct payment for illegal content by the anti-piracy companies. Making matters worse, the tax authorities said the income had been generated in the course of running an Internet business and as such was both undeclared and untaxed.
In June 2012 the Varberg District Court accepted that the then 34-year-old hadn’t uploaded content himself but had indeed assisted in the copyright infringements of PowerBits users. He was also found guilty of tax and accounting offenses relating to the income generated from the site.
The case went to appeal and yesterday the decision was handed down.
A Court of Appeal judge upheld the earlier ruling and found the now 35-year-old guilty of aiding in copyright infringement. He was also found guilty of accounting fraud and was sentenced to one year in jail.
In addition to the custodial sentence the man was told to pay almost $62,000 against an undeclared income of $126,600 generated from the 65,000 member site during 2007 and 2008, some of which was spent converting a pigsty into a datacenter.