Private Torrent Site User Faces Jail After Sharing 40 Movies *TorrentFreak

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In a hearing scheduled for tomorrow, a user of a private torrent site is expected to admit that he shared around 40 films in violation of copyright. The case is special. Not only is this a criminal prosecution that could result in jail time, but it will also pave the way for similar action against an undisclosed number of hackers.

The vast majority of BitTorrent users prefer “public” torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay. There are no barriers to entry and no rules to follow. It’s quick and convenient.

Private torrent sites operate on a membership basis, with an invitation required for entry. Once admitted, users must maintain their accounts in good standing, which usually means balancing whatever they upload with comparable uploads.

The rules differ by site, but the general theme is that people can upload whatever they want, as long as they share with the community. This may mean that they share many movies or TV shows at once, making them a more interesting target.

DanishBits shutdown triggers further legal action

A closed and less public ecosystem is generally considered a plus for security, but when a site becomes the target of determined law enforcement, all bets are off. In October 2020, when Danish private tracker DanishBits shut down, it was just the beginning.

After being arrested in Morocco, one of the ringleaders of the site was extradited to Denmark, where he was later convicted and sent to prison. A few weeks earlier, a DanishBits user received a suspended sentence for his activities on the site.

The possibility of more torrent site users being prosecuted was previously left open by the police. However, the anti-piracy group Rights Alliance believes that a focus on user behavior can change attitudes towards piracy and those who participate in it.

Thanks to an initial case with specific goals in mind, Denmark may be on the verge of finding out.

Criminal prosecution for “Serial Offender”

Given previous successes against DanishBits users, it’s no surprise that Rights Alliance has selected another of its former members for prosecution. The existence of the case was reported by the Danish authorities K-News ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday. It’s been brewing for a long time.

As part of an investigation by Rights Alliance, anti-counterfeiting firm MarkMonitor was brought in to collect information about Danish users actively sharing a minimum of 10 films, to which Rights Alliance members own the rights. The decision to prosecute primarily “serial offenders” is intended to differentiate this type of action from the more predatory behavior associated with copyright trolls.

“We’ve been very focused on getting a verdict for movie downloads,” Rights Alliance director Maria Fredenslund told K-News.

“It’s the first thing for us that we manage to establish a principle in criminal law. And that it is the police who must do it. We follow what is happening in this world and we can see that when a high penalty is given, it impacts how people download and refrain from downloading movies.

Set a deterrent example

When the very first ‘copyright troll’ cases appeared under their bridges in the mid-2000s, the name of the game was to pick someone who would never fight back, hit them with a massive default judgment and to use panic to get people to pay the settlements.

The situation with Rights Alliance is more nuanced. The anti-piracy group seeks a similar deterrent but does so with caution. Outsourcing the tracking data to a reputable company, a police prosecutor’s office, and then a sentencing court, means there can be no allegations of profit-driven foul play. But is the case of the file sharer ordinary enough to make it relevant, without special circumstances?

“To our knowledge, he has no connection with the operators of DanishBits and he has not been the subject of any charges in this regard”, informs Rights Alliance of TorrentFreak.

“He is a typical user of a private BitTorrent tracker like DanishBits in the sense that he is not part of a downloader group or first time downloader, but used a seedbox when he was apprehended.”

Another thing that interested us was the possibility that the data entered on DanishBits could have been used as evidence in this case. Rights Alliance told us they don’t know if the police did this, but at least in this case, police prosecution should be the end of the matter and Rights Alliance won’t need to pursue with a civil case. .

“The state/police is pursuing the matter. We do not plan to pursue a civil case if our claim for damages is dealt with in criminal proceedings. There is no fine to pay, but we have sued for damages.

The court’s sentencing options

Since this is a criminal prosecution, jail time is available to the court. Rights Alliance says the maximum prison sentence the court can consider is 18 months, according to the charges and Danish copyright law. Rights Alliance (RA) also has a claim for damages of DKK 2,800 (USD 380), which is very low compared to some of the claims seen elsewhere. Is this the kind of claim that could appear in future cases?

“Our claim for damages will vary on a case-by-case basis. We take into account any special costs due to the type of evidence collection required and the amount of illicit use of RA members’ works. In the past, it has been difficult to obtain damages in criminal intellectual property cases decided by Danish courts. We are therefore starting from a low level and progressing to a more reasonable level”, concludes Rights Alliance.

While any type of lawsuit is unacceptable to the majority of file sharers, Rights Alliance plays it all the way. There is no shadowy tracking company involved and no corporate structure in place for complainants to hide behind. There is also no targeting of users sharing a very small number of movies and the claim for damages is currently very low.

It has all the hallmarks of a project designed to deter, not a project designed to raise money. Rights Alliance knows it cannot be labeled as another copyright troll and has taken every step to avoid that. As these campaigns unfold, it’s highly unusual, but whether it will have the intended effect is another story.

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