A moderator and uploader of one of Sweden’s oldest but now defunct private torrent sites has been hit with a huge damages award. For uploading a single pre-release movie the 28-year-old is now required to pay $652,000, the equivalent amount the studio would have charged for a license to distribute the movie for free. For sharing more than 500 others he received a suspended jail sentence plus 160 hours community service.
In 2011, popular private BitTorrent tracker Swebits announced it would close down, just a week after one of its users was arrested.
The then 25-year-old was a moderator and uploader and between April 2008 and November 2011 allegedly obtained huge quantities of content from the warez scene and shared the titles with the site’s users.
The investigation, carried out by anti-piracy outfit Antipiratbyran (now Rights Alliance), involved the uploading of 518 movies and TV shows. The case concluded in the Västmanlands District Court last month.
Rightsholders dubbed the man Sweden’s “worst ever” individual movie pirate and for that the prosecution demanded at least one year in jail.
The district court has now handed down its verdict and while an immediate custodial sentence is off the table, the damages award is huge by any standards.
This morning the court ordered the now 28-year-old to pay $652,000 in damages for the unauthorized distribution of just one of the movies in the case. For the other 517 the man was handed a suspended jail sentence and ordered to complete 160 hours of community service.
In comments to TorrentFreak, Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén says that the damages award is the largest ever for a Swedish movie.
“[The $652,000] refers to compensation and is equal to what the man would have paid if he had bought a license to distribute the movie for free downloads,” Pontén explains.
“The man also has to pay damages for other losses such as disturbing the market and goodwill losses. This shows what damages are caused to the creators and rights holders by the illegal file-sharing of one movie.”
Needless to say the Pirate Party are outraged by the decision, which exceeds the $150,000 per title statutory damages possible in the United States, a territory infamous for its tough infringement penalties.
“To receive such a harsh penalty for doing something carried out by millions of Swedes shows how outdated our legislation is. The only way forward is a radical reform of copyright law that allows for the sharing of culture,” says Gustav Nipe, chairman of the Young Pirates.
But before any overhaul can take place, Rights Alliance have their eyes on other targets.
“In the future a number of criminal cases are up for trial and damages will be brought forward for one or several movies,” Pontén concludes.