Movie Pirate Sentenced in Criminal Case Designed to Send Warning

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A former private torrent site user who downloaded around 40 movies has received a 30-day conditional prison sentence in Denmark. While the case covered just one person, the prosecution was carefully crafted to send a deterrent message: any persistent pirate risks prosecution in a criminal court.

warningThe decision whether to pirate content or pay for it is ultimately a personal choice influenced by any number of factors.

From content availability to the ability to pay, from wanting content now or being forced to wait, the scales can easily tip one way or the other.

By emphasizing the benefits of legal consumption and elevating public perception of risk, anti-piracy groups try to tip the scales in favor of rightsholders. Showing real-life consequences of piracy is one of the available options.

Deterrence For All

Torrent sites offering Danish content were popular in Denmark for obvious reasons, at least until anti-piracy group Rights Alliance teamed up with police to shut them down.

When key DanishBits players were arrested, convicted and later sent to prison, anyone inclined to launch a new site had a crystal clear example of the potential risks. As a deterrent to regular BitTorrent users, it wasn’t the right message.

The pursuit of high-level players would’ve simply reinforced the belief that only those at the top face any risk. But Rights Alliance hadn’t forgotten regular torrent site users and was preparing to send them a hand-crafted message.

Regular BitTorrent User Sentenced

A former user of DanishBits appeared in court Thursday having pleaded guilty to sharing around 40 movies on DanishBits. As previously reported, he had no formal connections with the site other than membership, and wasn’t part of any specific uploader group. He was a normal user, much like any other.

Rights Alliance needed a conviction that would resonate with the general public so after hiring a specialist company to gather tracking evidence, a case was built against the DanishBits user. Instead of being handed to a lawfirm for civil action, the case was accepted by the police for criminal prosecution.

Yesterday the Court of Frederiksberg handed down a 30-day conditional prison sentence and ordered the man to pay DKK 2,840 (US$380) in damages, the exact amount requested by Rights Alliance on behalf of its rightsholder partners. The Court also ordered the confiscation of two computers and external hard drives.

Compared to the wild damages awards available to U.S. courts in civil cases, $380 may seem insignificant. But what it represents is a real amount attached to a very real criminal conviction, one that Rights Alliance (RA) believes can offer significant support to credible anti-piracy messaging.

RA: Conviction Marks a Turning Point

Considering the importance of the prosecution, TorrentFreak asked Rights Alliance CEO Maria Fredenslund if the conditional prison sentence would send the right kind of message. Was it too harsh, or perhaps not harsh enough?

“That was what the prosecution was going for, and we certainly think that a prison sentence has a deterrent effect,” Fredenslund says.

“Not least because the compensation claim is also taken into account, and our experience with the’ environment’ shows that it also means a lot for the preventive effect.”

Rights Alliance obviously wants knowledge of the conviction to be a dominant factor when choices are being made over whether to pirate content or pay for it. Maria Fredenslund believes that the combination of police intervention and adjudication of compensation claims in criminal cases could help tip the scales in favor of legal content.

But just as importantly, Rights Alliance CEO believes that the case represents a turning point in the fight against piracy – the involvement of the police.

“Finally, we have come to the point where the theft of films, series and other content is also a task that the police take care of. It is a necessity and therefore also a milestone in the work to ensure good conditions in the digital area,” Fredenslund concludes.

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