Pirate Site Trial in Norway Ends in Record Sentence

Despite Norway eliminating music piracy with quality legal offerings, last year several movies studios decided to renew their anti-piracy efforts by raiding the first video portal in years. The case went to trial and the decision has just been handed down. While not as harsh as Warner, Universal and Disney had hoped for, it's still the toughest in Norway's history.

Of all piracy related news, a January 2015 report out of Norway gave the strongest indication yet that the key to eliminating piracy is a strong legal offering.

Following a survey carried out by music group IFPI it was revealed that just 4% of under 30-year-olds were still using illegal file-sharing platforms to obtain music, with 80% using legal streaming platforms instead.

Still hamstrung by inconvenient release windowing, the movie industry could only look on while wondering how to solve its own piracy problems. In March 2015 its response arrived, with the raiding of popular local unauthorized movie site Norskfilm.

The site first appeared on the radar of anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Rettighetsalliansen) during 2014 and soon became the subject of a criminal investigation. During a subsequent raid carried out by Vestfold Police a 20-year-old man was arrested. He was charged with copyright infringement offenses including making available more than a thousand movies and TV shows and downloading hundreds of titles from The Pirate Bay.

“This is the first time we have succeeded in halting a page operated from Norway,” revealed Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen.

The importance of the subsequent prosecution by companies including Warner Bros, Fox Paramount, Universal, Sony and Disney couldn’t be understated since the outcome would draw a line in the sand for other would-be pirates.

Together the studios went tough by demanding six months in jail plus more than $93,000 in damages.

But despite agreeing that the main had illegally made available at least 1,200 films and TV shows, downloaded around 700 from The Pirate Bay and then made them available to the public, the ruling from Tønsberg District Court falls far short of those demands.

According to information distributed to its members yesterday, Rights Alliance said that the Court handed the now 21-year-old a six month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay around $28,000.

“The illegal proliferation of films via the Internet has gradually degenerated to become a significant problem for the industry,” the ruling reads.

“The business is helping to undermine both the production of films and the profitability of licensees and others that are related to the legal market.”

While falling short of the studios’ demands, the sentence is still being described as the toughest ever handed out for intellectual property infringement in Norway.

“Although we only got a fraction of what we asked for, I doubt that we will appeal the ruling,” Secretary General Willy Johansen told Aftenposten.

“Had he been ordered to pay compensation for our losses for anyone who had downloaded those films illegally it would’ve amounted to several tens of millions. Nevertheless, [$28,000] is the highest amount someone has been sentenced to.”

The record (but comparatively light) sentence was welcomed by the former pirate site admin’s lawyer.

“[My client] had been very concerned that he could go to prison, it has probably been the biggest source of strain because he is so young,” explained Nikolai Riise. “In addition, the claim for damages had been of considerable size, so it’s a relief for him that requirement is so significantly reduced.”

While the studios didn’t get everything they asked for the man now has a criminal record, meaning that the way has been paved for others considering embarking on the same kind of activity. For Rights Alliance the fight continues and the next target is already lined up.

“Now we are working towards stopping the Popcorn Time service, which automatically shares a movie you download on PC or mobile with all your contacts,” Johansen concludes.

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