Suspended Sentence for 4,200 Song, 270 Movie File-Sharer

In what is being touted as a first-of-its-kind case, an 18 year-old Swiss woman has been hit with a fine and a two year suspended jail sentence after being caught file-sharing thousands of songs and hundreds of movies by music group, IFPI. Failure to pay her fine will lead to 30 days in jail.

Following police raids in 2004, it eventually took 4 years to find Christian Riesen, the admin of eDonkey site ShareReactor, guilty of copyright infringement. After all that time and effort, he was ordered to pay a fine of just $4,200.

Up until now, Swiss citizens – perhaps using sites such as that operated by Riesen – have had a fairly easy ride since it is considered legal for Internet users in the country to download copyright material without the permission of rights holders.

Uploading, on the other hand, is a different story.

Although Swiss law allows the sharing of copyright works between friends and family in a closed network, sharing the same on an open and public peer-to-peer network such as BitTorrent, eD2K or Gnutella is pushing it too far.

In recent years, many file-sharers have received the well-known ‘pay up or else’ letters, asking for payment of a few francs per track in order to avoid court. But now, in what is being touted as a groundbreaking case, an 18 year-old from Locarno, the largely Italian speaking area in the Swiss canton of Ticino, has not been so lucky.

According to Swiss news reports, the unnamed woman was tracked by the Swiss branch of IFPI, while sharing and making available 4,200 songs and 270 movies. The music group then forwarded the complaint to the public prosecutor in Ticino who took up the case.

The woman, who did not appeal, received an unspecified fine and a 2 year suspended jail sentence. If she does not pay the fine, it will convert to a 30 day jail sentence.

As in another recent case in Sweden, it seems likely that the woman was using a ‘shared folder’-style file-sharing program, such as Direct Connect or LimeWire, probably sharing her entire collection at once and making her a prime target to be made an example of.

According to the Berne-based Foundation for Consumer Protection, a group working for the last 44 years to promote consumer rights, the action taken by IFPI is excessive. The best method to prevent infringements, they say, is via awareness and prevention, rather than oppression.

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