After opening its doors in 2010, in 2014 a private tracker known as GKS announced it would be closing for good. As is so often the case, the site was suffering legal problems.
An investigation, carried out on behalf of U.S.-based mainstream entertainment companies via local outfits SACEM, SCPP and others, showed that between January 2012 and April 2014, three million unauthorized downloads were made from the site. They included 242,000 movies, 240 concerts and 2,240 music albums.
The case concluded in the Criminal Court of La Rochelle last week. The 28-year-old former admin of the site was handed a six month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay two million euros in damages. Major Hollywood studios were awarded the lion’s share, as follows:
Warner Bros. (470K euros), Disney (242.7K euros), 20th Century Fox (228.7K euros), Paramount Pictures (221.5K euros), Universal Pictures (172.5K euros) Columbia Pictures (158K euros) and Tristar Pictures (11k euros).
Music groups through the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers (SACEM) were awarded 564,762 euros in damages, with two smaller awards of 5,000 euros each going to a pair of film distribution groups.
Interestingly the case was heard in the absence of site operator ‘Boris P’. The site was hosted in Hungary and the Czech Republic but Boris P left France for Budapest in 2013 and never returned.
In an interview with French publication NextImpact, Boris P denies that he fled to Hungary.
“The city of Budapest is so good, I ended up staying. Also with my [low] income, I better live here where a pint usually costs 1 or 2 euros,” he explains.
There were early signs, however, that all was not well with the site. Boris P said he hoped to be considered a host and enjoy the legal protections that provides (he never hid his identity) but there were issues on the financial front.
While users were donating enough to keep the site running every month, PayPal blocked his accounts several times. He denies making much money from the site, however.
“Maybe 100 to 200 euros a month, sometimes I also paid out of my pocket,” he notes.
Then, in the summer of 2014 he got word that French police were looking for him.
“They wanted me to return to France to go into police custody,” he reveals. “I did not particularly have the means to return to see my family, let alone go to the police! I offered them a Skype call but [the police] laughed at that. Then, I received no more news – not a single call, nothing?”
Boris P says the case has taken a toll on his health.
“I have not been able to sleep for a month, I’ve lost 10 kg. I have to live on 300 euros per month, which in Hungary is fine. In fact, I absolutely do not know what to do now and for the future,” he says.
“[The fine] is so huge that whether it’s 1 or 2 million [euros] it makes no difference to me. My gross income in 2014 was 8,800 euros and in 2013, 11,546 euros,” Boris notes.
“I did a little calculation: by giving them all the gross income of my business, I would need 227 years to pay off the fine.”