Starting two years ago TV-show and movie distributors in Finland began sending out thousands of settlement letters to alleged pirates, demanding payments of between 600 and 3,000 euros.
The letters in question are sent by lawfirm Hedman Partners, which threatens legal action if accused pirates refuse to cooperate.
It’s unclear how many recipients have paid up since the scheme started, but it is no surprise that some have ignored the warnings, hoping that the lawfirm wouldn’t follow-up on the threat.
However, Hedman Partners did take several people to court and the first case came to its conclusion in court yesterday.
The lawsuit in question was filed against a man who was accused of downloading ten episodes of the pirate TV-series “Black Sails” and a copy of the movie A Walk Among the Tombstones via BitTorrent.
The rightsholders employed the German tracking company Excipio, who linked the man’s IP-address to several swarms where these videos were distributed. In addition, the same IP-address was linked to dozens of other downloads.
In his defense, the man denied having downloaded the videos while pointing out that his Wi-Fi network was open to anyone. In fact, he actually bought the router on the same day the first infringement was observed.
Because of the open Wi-Fi network, outsiders could have easily been responsible for downloading the pirated videos, the defense argued. To illustrate this point, they setup a Wi-Fi honeypot at the defendant’s home to which the first outsider connected within minutes.
In response, the rightsholders provided evidence showing that the man ‘admitted guilt’ in an online forum, where an unredacted copy of the initial settlement letter was posted.
After weighing these and other arguments from both sides, the Finnish Market court found the defendant guilty.
The rightsholders demanded 8,500 euros in damages, but the court limited this to 50 euros per TV-episode and 100 euros for the movie, which makes 600 euros in total.
However, in addition the man must now pay 31,762 euros to cover the legal expenses of the copyright holders, Crystalis Entertainment and Scanbox Entertainment.
Jaana Pihkala, Executive Director at the local anti-piracy group, is happy with the court’s decision. He warns people who use unauthorized services, and notes that the settlement letter campaign is designed to limit the number of lawsuits.
“The letters and reconciliation process are designed to reduce unnecessary litigation,” Pihkala says.
Previously, the Market Court’s Chief Judge Kimmo Mikkola warned that a flood of file-sharing cases could prove problematic, as the court’s resources are limited.
The defendant in this case is not ready to give up just yet though. He has announced that he will appeal the case before the high court, which has yet to decide whether it will take on the case.