With a claimed 400,000 registered users, MovieX.info was one of the largest semi-private BitTorrent trackers on the Internet in 2008.
Although the site’s operations were frowned upon by a part of the BitTorrent community, its members saw MovieX as their prime source for fast downloads. This high-profile site didn’t go unnoticed by the Australian anti-piracy outfit AFACT, who launched an investigation into the site’s operators.
During December 2008, AFACT’s efforts resulted in the arrest of two men from Australia, who we’ll refer to as “John Doe” and “Jake Doe”. The two were accused of facilitating the unauthorized transfers of 14 million movies and TV shows.
This week the case against the two men finally came to an end. John Doe was sentenced to 18 months in jail and Jake Doe received a 15 month jail sentence. However, Judge Richard Jones sent the two home on a $3000 good behavior bond, replacing the jail time with community service of 200 and 125 hours respectively.
TorrentFreak spoke to Jake, who says he is glad that they escaped jail time, which he credits to the excellent work of their lawyers. But, at the same time he’s also very disappointed with how their case is being presented in the media.
“I would like to point out that [we] have learnt our lesson. However, half the things said in the press are untrue and the media has a way to blow these things out of proportions,” Jake told TorrentFreak.
Aside from technicalities, such as the claim that the website was hosted at their home address instead of in a data center in The Netherlands, most of the inaccuracies deal with money related issues.
In common with many other private BitTorrent trackers, MovieX offered VIP memberships to its users in return for certain privileges. However, reports in the media suggest that people could only download files if they paid for a membership, which is certainly not the case.
“We never forced anyone to give us money or sign up for a ‘subscription’ service as described in the press. If we were to go back and ask any VIP member of the website if they were ever forced to give us money the answer would be a simple ‘no’,” Jake said.
This is supported by the court papers which show that 6,000 transactions were made by MovieX members, totaling more than $110,000 in revenue. A large sum of money, but 6,000 transactions with more than 400,000 members means that less than 1.5% of all members paid money to the site.
And then there’s the claims that huge profits were made from the website. If we deduct the $50,000 that was frozen and confiscated by the authorities, a healthy revenue still remains. However, according to Jake nearly all of the revenue went back into the site.
Jake explained that the server costs added up to $1000 a month, and that they spent several hundred dollars each month on premium RapidShare and Megaupload accounts for the site. Also, the ‘owner’ of the site – better known as Loder – received a share of the donations for his work on the site. The rest of the money was kept in the operators’ personal bank accounts, but would be invested in the site at a later stage.
According to the two men, there was never any intention to cash in at the expense of its users, or steal the money and run away. There were issues, and not everyone may have been a fan of the site, but the site was not setup as a business at all.
For the operators, the end of the case closes a controversial chapter in their lives. Both hold a steady job and they are ready to move forward.
“I wish to end this by saying I respect the Judge’s decision on our sentencing. We can only go in one direction and that is forward and this will be something that is left behind,” Jake concluded.