P2P Site Operator Appears in French File-Sharing “Show Trial”

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The owner of a file-sharing site active more than 5 years ago went on trial today in the French capital, Paris. Vincent Valade is accused by entertainment companies of profiting heavily from the unauthorized distribution of more than 7,000 movies. If convicted he faces up to 3 years in jail, 300,000 euros in fines and compensation settlements running to millions of euros.

Following two adjournments, the trial of file-sharing site operator Vincent Valade got underway in France today. Scheduled to run for 3 days, the Paris Criminal Court will hear evidence that claims between 2005 and 2006, Valade “provided films without the permission of copyright holders.”

Now aged 25, Valade was the owner of ed2K link site Emule Paradise, which at the time was one of the most popular sites of its type. Indeed, the claims from the movie company plaintiffs including Association of Film Producers, the National Federation of Film Distributors, the Association of Independent Producers, Universal, Galatée Films and Pathé Rennare, are that the site attracted around 300,000 visitors every day.

From this traffic, say the plaintiffs, Valade generated a sizeable advertising income. During the two year period in question it’s claimed he had revenues of more than 416,000 euros which were placed in bank accounts in Belize and Cyprus. Five other defendants including the Future Net (Net Avenir) advertising agency will appear alongside Valade at the trial.

Valade, now aged 25, is accused of facilitating the illegal distribution of 7,113 copyright movies, some of which were pre-release, between 2005 and 2006. He is also accused of the illegal copying of 19 films which were found on his computer following his December 2006 arrest.

It is by no means certain that Valade will lose his case. A similar case brought by 20th Century Fox, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Warner against link site see-link.net failed last year after the plaintiffs presented no evidence to show that even a single infringement had taken place due to the site’s links.

“The underlying question is, can Vallade be held liable for links that are Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI), and not Uniform Resource Locators (URL),” Guillaume Champeau of file-sharing news site Numerama told TorrentFreak this afternoon.

“That is, if there is no evidence that the referenced content was actually shared when the .ed2K files were created, can you say it is infringement? Even if the content is shared, is it second degree infringement?”

In addition, one of the core arguments of the plaintiffs is that eMule Paradise offered the eMule file-sharing software for download – complete with how-to guides – alongside links to infringing downloads.

“[The plaintiffs] say that given ‘the context’ of eMule Paradise, with lots of links enabling the downloading of infringing content, the act of offering eMule for download is criminal,” Guillaume explains.

“Since the DADVSI law passed in 2006, it is forbidden in France to ‘knowingly and by any form, publish, make available or communicate to the public a device clearly intended for making available copyrighted works and material without authorization’.”

If found guilty Valade faces a 3 year jail sentence, fines of up to 300,000 euros and damages payouts potentially running to millions of euros.

Update: According to Guillaume, the trial has been postponed.

“The defense lawyers have shown flaws in the order of reference, and the court agreed that the case had to go back to the investigation judge. When the flaws are fixed, a new date for the trial will be decided. It should take months, if not years.”

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