After tracking down hundreds of Internet pirates over the years, a case that came to a head at the turn of the decade was shaping up to be one of the most important for anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån (now Rights Alliance).
More often focused on lower-hanging fruit, Antipiratbyrån had their eyes on the “warez scene”, the people and infrastructure at the very top of the so-called “piracy pyramid” from where content trickles down to the masses.
In 2010 and following a lengthy investigation by Antipiratbyrån, police raided a topsite known as ‘Devil’. Topsites are top-secret, high-speed servers used by piracy release groups and their affiliates for storing and distributing unauthorized copyrighted content. When Devil went down dozens of servers were seized, together containing an estimated 250 terabytes of pirate content.
One man was also arrested but it took until 2014 for him to be charged with unlawfully making content available “intentionally or by gross negligence.”
According to police the 50-something year old man from Väsby, Sweden, acted “in consultation or in concert with other persons, supplied, installed, programmed, maintained, funded and otherwise administered and managed” the Devil file-sharing network. Before its shutdown, Devil was reported to service around 200 elite members.
Considering Antipiratbyrån’s links with the movie industry it came as no surprise that the charges included the unlawful making available of 2,250 mainly Hollywood movies. According to the prosecutor, those numbers made the case a record breaker.
“We have not prosecuted for this many movies in the past. There are many movies and large data set,” prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad commented earlier. “It is also the largest analysis of computers ever made in an individual case.”
Given the scale of the case it was expected that punishments would be equally harsh but things did not play out that way.
Despite admitting that he operated servers at his home and in central Stockholm and the court acknowledging that rightsholders had suffered great damage, the man has just been sentenced to probation and 160 hours of community service.
According to Mitti.se, two key elements appear to have kept the man’s punishment down. Firstly, he cooperated with police in the investigation. Secondly – and this is a feature in many file-sharing prosecutions – the case simply dragged on for too long.
“It is worrying that the bottleneck at the police has affected the sentence,” says Sara Lindbäck of Rights Alliance.
Defense lawyer Henrik Olsson Lilja says that he’s pleased his client has avoided jail but adds that no decision has yet been made on any appeal. That being said, an end to the criminal case doesn’t necessarily mean the matter is completely over.
Last year Rights Alliance indicated that the six main studios behind the prosecution might initiate a civil action against the man and demand between $673,400 and $2.69m per title infringed, albeit on a smaller sample-sized selection of the 2,250 movies involved in the case.
No announcement has been made on that front and Rights Alliance did not respond to our requests for comment.