Canal+ Demands €7,000,000 From Streaming Pirate, Court Awards €60,000

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Despite being ordered to pay around €60,000 by a French court this week, a farmworker who previously ran a pirate streaming service may have dodged a bullet. According to calculations presented by broadcasting giant Canal+, users of the site who clocked up 1.495 million visits avoided paying around 100 euros per month each to access the content legally. The court rejected the company's €7,200,000 claim but will Canal+ accept the court's decision?

canal+ logoThose who stream content illegally online are regularly portrayed as generating huge profits at the expense of legitimate content owners. In broad terms it’s an accurate summary; pirates invest nothing in the creative process and therefore risk none of their own time or money.

What pirates do risk, in some cases for surprisingly little profit, is legal action in both civil and criminal courts. It’s a roll of the dice a surprising number are still prepared to take, a French farmworker from Vienne, for example. Between 2019 and 2020, the man illegally streamed content owned by Canal+ which attracted 1.495 million visits, the broadcaster claimed.

Criminal Conviction, Civil Action

In May 2023, these streaming activities (mainly live football matches) earned the man a three-month suspended prison sentence in a criminal case. Suspension meant the defendant didn’t lose his freedom but with a civil case to answer, still faced losing money, probably on a massive scale.

Canal+ didn’t disappoint predictions. Maintaining a long tradition of filing a telephone number-sized claim, the broadcaster took the estimated 1.495 million visits to the platform, multiplied by a monthly legitimate subscription cost of €109, then weighted by 15%, the estimated audience penetration rate of Canal+.

Arriving at an amount just over €7,177,000, the broadcaster tacked moral damages on top and demanded all advertising revenue generated by the man during the 2019-2020 period; roughly €29,900, give or take.

French Court Hands Down its Decision

This week the Poitiers Judicial Court (Tribunal judiciaire de Poitiers) handed down its decision.

According to La Nouvelle Republique, the court awarded Canal+ just €56,500, comprised of €50,000 compensation for loss, the requested moral damages amount divided by ten, plus just €5,000 of the €29,937 generated from advertising.

A note in the judgment indicates that formulating an accurate potential losses claim was unachievable.

“It appears that carrying out a mathematical calculation of SA Canal Plus’s loss of opportunity proves impossible,” the judgment notes.

More Risk: To Appeal or Not

The only remaining question is whether either party will appeal. On balance, an appeal by the defendant would make little sense. For Canal+ there’s a deterrent component to consider, hence the huge initial claim.

In practical terms, if a €60,000 award doesn’t deter would-be pirates, double the amount probably won’t either. Nobody ever goes into these things expecting to get caught.

However, if an appeal went on to uphold the €60,000 award, some might consider that helpful. After being scrutinized twice, the amount could be seen as a more predictable guideline, rather than the unpredictable outlier one-off it currently is.


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