Six-Month Sentence For Sharing Pirated eBooks & Paywalled News Articles

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A man who shared copies of more than a thousand eBooks and articles obtained from a paywalled news site has been handed a six-month suspended sentence by a court in Denmark. Prosecutions for sharing paywalled articles are extremely rare but in this case supported by a laundry list of additional offenses including fraud and movie piracy.

news-smallFollowing a piracy crackdown in Denmark and the closure of the largest torrent sites as part of a joint Rights Alliance and police operation, content-hungry pirates dispersed to find new homes.

With DanishBits and NordicBits consigned to history, many ended up at Asgaard, a relatively young private members site happy to take on new members.

Opening up under these circumstances was a bold but risky move. Within weeks the site’s operators belatedly arrived at the same conclusion and decided to shut down before things got out of hand. They were already too late; multiple arrests, a string of prosecutions, and several convictions followed.

Anti-piracy group Rights Alliance is now reporting the details of yet another Asgaard-related conviction.

Sharing Pirated eBooks & Paywalled Articles

Asgaard announced its closure in mid-December 2020 but that didn’t stop at least one of the site’s staff spending Christmas in prison.

The announcement also failed to prevent Rights Alliance and Danish police from investigating offenses that took place months before Asgaard offered to take in new members. Or indeed, offenses that took place even after Asgaard shut down.

According to Rights Alliance, a member of Asgaard was also part of a piracy release group known as ‘Xoro6’. Between July and December 2020, the now 41-year-old man from Funen illegally copied and shared over 1,000 eBooks, audiobooks, newspaper articles and magazines with other Asgaard users.

Around 85 of the articles were obtained from a paywalled service operated by Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet. The anti-piracy group says that the man gained access to the platform using credentials belonging to legitimate subscribers to the service.

Six-Month Suspended Prison Sentence

On June 22, 2023, at the Court of Odense, the former Asgaard member was handed a six-month suspended sentence for sharing the eBooks and the paywalled articles obtained using the credentials of unsuspecting Ekstra Bladet+ subscribers. But that wasn’t all.

“The 41-year-old was also convicted of eight counts of fraud in online shopping,” a statement from Denmark’s National Unit for Special Crime (NSK) adds.

“Here, he had falsely claimed to the sellers that he had either not received the goods or had returned them. Therefore, he unjustifiably got his money back.”

Rights Alliance says the man defrauded online stores to the tune of DKK 17,229 ($2,524) but his offending didn’t stop there.

Plex Server Subscriptions

The man was reported to the authorities in January 2021 for the eBook and article-sharing offenses but despite the shutdown of Asgaard, infringement of other types of media continued.

“He then became involved in running a Plex server where at least 3,468 movies and series were made available to paying customers. A relationship for which he was also convicted in court,” Rights Alliance notes.

“Here he was responsible for advertising the Plex server on platforms such as Discord and also for registration, payment and guidance of the service’s customers, who could buy access to the server for DKK 100 [US$15] per month.”

The Slippery Slope

“It is not the first time that we see cases like this, where illegal sharing of creative content easily becomes a criminal slippery slope to more serious offenses,” says Rights Alliance director, Maria Fredenslund.

“It is therefore important to intervene early, so that we avoid rights holders as well as general consumers and companies being exposed to a wide range of criminal acts.”

On top of his suspended sentence, the man was also ordered to pay DKK 41,715 (US$6,111) compensation to Rights Alliance. Given the level of offending and the aggravating factors, that’s not much compared to similar cases elsewhere. Nevertheless, NSK deputy prosecutor Brian Borgstrøm says the outcome is acceptable.

“I am satisfied with the verdict, which emphasizes that organized and systematic infringement of copyright is a form of crime which the authorities take seriously,” Borgstrøm concludes.


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