During the summer of 2017, French law enforcement booked a massive success with the shutdown of T411, a popular semi-private torrent tracker with over five million registered members.
The site, which catered to a French-speaking audience, had been on the radar of rightsholders for some time. After avoiding the long arm of justice on several occasions, the curtain eventually fell.
Following news of the site’s downfall, it appeared that not all people working on the site were French. The main suspect was located in Canada and the system administrator was from Ukraine. Several French suspects were identified too, but these were mainly seen as moderators.
Today, more than six years after T411 was shut down, L’Informe reports that a Criminal Court in Rennes has handed the two main suspects custodial sentences and an unprecedented damages order of almost a quarter billion euros.
Three Years Prison and Massive Damages Award
In a landmark ruling, the court ordered the Canadian creator of the torrent site, Mr. Jolicoeur, to serve a three-year prison sentence and pay a €150,000 ($158,000) fine. The defendant wasn’t present in court and a warrant for his arrest was issued, which Canadian authorities have to follow up.
In addition, the court awarded an unprecedented €489 million ($516m) in damages to rightsholders. This is the largest damages award against pirate site operators we have ever seen. For comparison, The Pirate Bay founders had to pay damages that totaled less than seven million euros.
The amount in this case appears to be based on the total number of downloads that could be traced back to the site. The prosecution counted over 190,000 torrents, which generated more than 270 million downloads across various categories.
Films and TV series were by far the most popular, which explains why the bulk of the damages, €471 million, goes to movie industry companies including Warner, Pathé, Gaumont, UGC and Film24. The remaining €18 million is awarded to French music group SACEM.
18 Months for Ukrainian Sysop
In addition to the main suspect, the court also sentenced T411 sysop Mr. R.V., who previously shared his version of events with TorrentFreak.
R.V., who now lives in Sweden, was present at the hearings and sentenced to 18 months in prison, of which 13 are conditional. The sysop already served this time in pre-trial detention so remains free.
The court also held the sysop responsible for 30% of the damages award, more than €146 million in total. That’s pretty much a monetary life sentence, which comes as a huge disappointment.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, R.V. says that he will appeal the judgment. He describes the damages amount as abnormal and half-jokingly adds that he might as well quit his job if it’s upheld.
“I’m not going to pay it, but even if I am forced to do so, I will quit the job and live on social benefits for jobless people instead. Otherwise, I need to work 3,500 years to pay such a fine,” R.V. says.
R.V. also notes that the defense had no opportunity to challenge the calculation of the damages amount, which is something that will likely come up during the appeal.
Modest Sentences for Moderators
In addition to the site’s founder and sysop, the court also sentenced several French moderators of T411. The five defendants must pay 250 euros each to all of the listed rightsholders.
L’Informe reports that the authorities began investigating the site in 2015. They were ultimately able to identify the suspects by cross-referencing their PayPal accounts, IP-addresses, and bank details.
For rightsholders and French law enforcement, the convictions amount to a major victory, but their work is not over yet. Shortly after T411 was shut down YggTorrent took its place and, despite multiple attempts to take it offline, the site remains online today.