In common with most broadly comparable countries, internet users in Denmark enjoy movies and TV shows, music, videogames, and ebooks.
The problem for rightsholders is that a subset of the population prefers not to pay for the privilege.
Local anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Rettigheds Alliancen) mitigates all types of piracy but for the past few years, has maintained a keen focus on torrent sites.
Working in partnership with the Danish government’s SØIK IP-Task Force, Rights Alliance forced several sites to close down and successfully prosecuted site operators, staff members, and users who uploaded content to those sites.
In 2021, Rights Alliance targeted specialized servers that not only supply content to torrent sites but also play a role in boosting download times while improving security.
Seedbox Providers Appear in the Crosshairs
In basic terms, every BitTorrent user already operates a potential ‘seedbox’. A computer (box) loaded with a correctly-configured torrent client and content to upload can ‘seed’ or share content with others. However, the term ‘seedbox’ usually refers to a pre-configured remote server running a torrent client.
Accessed via a web interface in the user’s browser, these remote torrent clients have several advantages, including 24/7/365 uptime, high-speed connections, and depending on the provider and many other factors, varying levels of protection against rightsholders’ lawsuits.
In 2021, news broke that six people had been arrested in Denmark due to their alleged connections to several local torrent sites. Among them was Kasper Nielsen of internet services company HNielsen Networks, a supplier of servers under various brands that could be configured for ‘seedbox’ purposes.
Available information indicated that the servers had been used by an unknown number of users to share content on private torrent sites ShareUniversity, Superbits and DanishBytes.
Targeting the operator of a service provider, offering access to fundamentally legal servers and software, isn’t the same as targeting a user of those services who act as direct infringers. In order to hold a third party liable for someone else’s infringement, rightsholders usually need to show negligence or demonstrate that the provider or similar third party is somehow complicit.
In Denmark, the bar has been set fairly low. In 2015, a man was arrested for running a site that carried no pirate software but did advise users how to use piracy app Popcorn Time. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the man ultimately received a six-month conditional sentence for contributory infringement.
When Rights Alliance filed its criminal complaint against HNielsen Networks, the anti-piracy group referenced the landmark Filmspeler case which involved the sale of piracy-configured media players.
Seedbox Seller Sentenced
According to statements published by Rights Alliance and NSK (Særlig Kriminalitet) Denmark’s Special Crime Unit, Nielsen was convicted yesterday for selling seedboxes in the knowledge they were being used by others to share movies, TV shows, eBooks and other content, without permission from rightsholders.
“On February 28, the Court in Aalborg ruled against the Danish owner behind a seedbox company for, in the period November 2020 to May 2021, having sold seedboxes and server capacity to an unknown number of people, knowing that they were used for illegal sharing of no less than 3,838 copyright-protected works on the Danish and Nordic file sharing services ShareUniversity, Superbits and DanishBytes,” Rights Alliance reports.
Nielsen was handed a three-month conditional (suspended) sentence and a confiscation order for DKK 300,000 (around $42,600), the amount users had paid his company to access the seedbox servers. The 35-year-old must also pay compensation of DKK 298,660 to Rights Alliance.
“Providers of seedboxes have a responsibility to ensure that their services are not used for illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted content, which the Rights Alliance can clearly see that they are doing,” says Maria Fredenslund, Director of Rights Alliance.
“Therefore, this case helps to send a signal to other providers that you cannot deliberately sell services to the illegal market.”
Defendant Did Not Contest The Case
Since court documents are yet to be published and Rights Alliance was unable to share copies with TorrentFreak, we asked Nielsen if he could provide more background detail on the case. An important detail is that Neilsen was advised by his lawyers to take a plea deal, and did so at any early stage.
This came to light when we requested details relating to the Rights Alliance claim that “no less than 3,838 copyright-protected works” were shared on the torrent sites. Since 3,838 is pretty specific number, how was that proven?
The simple answer is that when Nielsen took the plea deal, there was no need to prove anything in court. The 3,838 figure and any evidence related to ‘knowledge’ of infringement carried out by seedbox customers on the sites, were accepted as true.
In respect of the 3,838 titles shared on the sites, there was apparently no indication of how many clients were sharing that content, so one user per title was assumed. No data is available to confirm or deny that claim but Neilsen says that the decision yesterday renders that moot, and he’s pleased the case is all over.
“I am quite happy that the case is over and that I can now focus on the future for myself and my company. The sentence is what we aimed for. The financial side is naturally tedious but we’ll overcome that,” he says.