More recently, ALPA has worked with broadcasting companies, targeting people who run unlicensed apps and sites dedicated to live TV programming. That work included an investigation into the administrators of beinsport-streaming.com and up to 20 other related sites.
Complaint Filed By ALPA and Broadcasters
Together with rightsholders Canal+ Group, beIN Sports and RMC Sport, ALPA filed a joint complaint with the French authorities. An investigation was carried out by the Cybercrime Group of the Research Section of the National Gendarmerie of Rennes, and in June 2018, the alleged founders and administrators of the sites were arrested.
The rightsholders demanded severe punishment of up to 10 years in prison on a range of offenses including organized counterfeiting and aggravated money laundering.
Last year, the men found themselves at the Criminal Court of Renne, which found them guilty of reproducing, communicating and distributing copyrighted content via the 20-site ‘beinsport-streaming’ ring. The convicted men were sentenced to varying degrees, from a 5,000 euro suspended fine right up to a 12-month prison sentence (six months suspended) for the group’s leader.
However, the thorny matter of damages remained.
Damages Hearing Held in January 2021
In common with similar trials in the past, the case against the beinsport-streaming defendants had a civil damages component. According to Canal+ Group, beIN Sports and RMC Sport, the financial and moral damage caused by the now-convicted men was massive – an estimated 91 million euros.
In the event, the Criminal Court of Renne stopped well short of this considerable sum but still found that the broadcasters were owed millions of euros. Canal+ Group’s compensation was set at 2.75 million euros, beIN Sports’ at 3.94 million, and RMC Sport’s at more than 600,000.
All of the men are liable to pay towards the compensation but three of the defendants, aged between 43 and 57-years-old, were ordered to pay the lion’s share – jointly and severally more than seven million euros. The two other men, aged 44 and 49, we ordered to contribute towards part of the sum.
The legal representative of one of the defendants, named in the media as Franck C, expressed satisfaction at the ruling, albeit in a limited way.
“It is a satisfactory decision in the sense that the damages are extremely reduced compared to the sums requested. However, we remain on extremely high sentences,” Katell Plançon said, commenting on the decision.
According to French media, the men were a mixed bunch. At the earlier hearing, FrancK C. was said to have been “taken for a simpleton” by the rest of the group. One of the men, a computer scientist, said he had acted in the “spirit of Robin Hood”, taking content from big companies and giving it to the poor. Group leader Olivier O., a family man with a passion for football, used to sell photocopying machines.
“Whether we are at one, two, three or four million euros, it does not change much because they are people who do not have the means to repay”, noted lawyer Hélène Laudic-Baron, who added that it was not out of the question that an appeal may yet be filed.