Sentenced to Jail, Warez Operator Faces $30m Damages Claim

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A two million member warez site that featured on the RIAA's latest "rogue site" list is to shut down after its owner was sentenced in absentia to a year in jail. Currently domiciled in Asia, the French national is now making preparations for his return to France where he faces a $30 million civil suit brought by some of the world's largest movie studios.

warezEvery year the RIAA and MPAA submit their overviews of so-called “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). Sites detailed in these reports are branded “rogue”, a label reserved for the supposed worst-of-the-worst in the piracy landscape.

In the RIAA’s most recent submission all the usual suspects were present, including The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Goear, the site blocked in Spain this week. Also present was Wawa-Mania, a popular ‘warez’ forum specializing in a broad range of ‘pirate’ content.

Founded in 2006 by Dimitri Mader, Wawa-Mania became the biggest local site of its type with more than 2,000,000 registered members.

Unsurprisingly this success attracted the attention of rightsholders and in 2009 Mader was detained after the Association Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) identified more than 3600 films being made available via the site without permission.

Mader, known online as Zac, received an unusual level of support from sympathizers, some of whom scaled Alpa’s headquarters and placed banners in support of the site operator.

wawa-mania

This week more than five years later, it was announced that Mader had been handed a year in jail and fined 20,000 euros for his role on the site. According to a statement issued by the Civil Society of Phonogram Producers (SCPP), the 26-year-old was sentenced in absentia, having fled to the Philippines some time ago.

The court also ordered Wawa-Mania to be shut down but it currently remains fully operational using an Ecuadorian TLD and the same Moldovan host previously used by The Pirate Bay.

mader-tv5

But for Mader the bad news doesn’t end here. Some of the world’s largest movie companies including Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount, Tristar, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. are now seeking huge damages amounting to around $30 million.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for late May. According to unconfirmed reports Mader is considering a return to France to face proceedings. Meanwhile, supporters are discussing ways to keep Wawa-Mania alive after any shutdown.

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