UK Movie Pirates Lose Appeal, Prison Time Stands

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Two UK men, who released thousands of movies onto popular torrent sites, lost their appeal this week. The Appeal Court upheld their sentences of more than four years each, arguing that the punishments are "stiff" but not "manifestly excessive".

piratkeybEarly 2013, five UK men were arrested for their alleged involvement in several interrelated movie release groups including RemixHD, 26K, UNiQUE, DTRG and HOPE/RESISTANCE.

The groups were responsible for distributing no less than 9,000 copyright infringing movies on popular torrent sites, including ExtraTorrent.

These releases generated five million unauthorized ‘views’ and a million pounds in lost revenue, according to a calculation from UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft, which was actively involved in the case.

All the men opted to plead guilty and late last year Wolverhampton Crown Court handed down sentences adding up to 17 years of jail time.

Sahil Rafiq and Reece Baker received the toughest sentences, four-and-a-half years and four years and two months, respectively. The pair appealed the decision in court this week, but without the desired result.

Defense lawyers argued that a reduced sentence would be appropriate as the men didn’t profit from the widespread copyright infringement. However, the Court of Appeal rejected this argument and denied the appeal.

“Whilst we accept that the sentences passed on these two young men were stiff, we are unpersuaded that they were manifestly excessive,” Mr Justice Hickinbottom said, quoted by Express & Star.

This means that Sahil Rafiq, who was accused of uploading more than 880 movies and causing 1.5 million illegal downloads as founder of 26K, will have to sit out his four-and-a-half year sentence.

Reece Baker, a member of DTRG and the founder of HOPE/RESISTANCE, has to serve four years and two months. He was said to have triggered more than 226,000 illegal downloads and aggravated his circumstances by continuing to upload movies while he was on bail.

The three other men haven’t appealed their sentences, as far as we know.

Graeme Reid, founder of ‘RemixHD,’ was jailed for three years and six months and ANALOG and TCM founder Ben Cooper received the same sentence. Scott Hemming, who uploaded some 800 movies, received a two-year suspended sentence.

Due to the distributed nature of BitTorrent, many of the movies the men released online are still being shared on public torrent sites, and perhaps will still be long after they’ve served their sentences.

Additional background and information is available in our previous in -depth coverage on these cases, here and here.

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