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Court fines Frenchman €1million over downloads

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Court fines Frenchman €1million over downloads
A French court has handed out a "severe" sentence to an illegal downloader including a €1 million bill for damages. Photo: USMission Geneva
11:26 CET+01:00
The sentence handed out by a French court this week to a 21-year-old convicted of setting up a site for illegal downloads might send a shudder down the spine of anyone with a regular habit of helping themselves to illegal copies of films, TV episodes or music via the internet.

A court in France this week was criticised for dishing out a “severe” sentence to a young Frenchman who created his own site for illegal downloading.

The unemployed, IT wizard, known online as Jefjef10, was handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence by judges in the town of Thionville, western France on Tuesday and ordered to pay the maximum €1 million ($1.34 million) in damages to the music and film companies who had lodged complaints, which included Disney, Warner, Century Fox and Colombia Pictures.

His lawyer Nicolas Rebbot, blasted the sentence as “severe” and claimed the site “forum-ddl” had not made his client a rich man and therefor he had no hope of paying the damages demanded by the court.

“The conviction was expected in light of the law, as was the suspended prison sentence, which is normally between six and 12 months, but the amount of damages is disproportionate and it is not comparable to the actual harm done," said Rebbot.

But France’s SACEM (Society of Authors, composers and Publishers of Music) which was also a complainant in the case has vowed to do everything to get the money owed to them.

“We will attempt a recovery of our damages in view of his capabilities,” the company’s lawyer said.

The calculation for the amount of damages was based on the frequency of traffic to the “forum-ddl” site, wich had 100,000 members and saw over three million downloads from a catalogue of around 50,000 different items.

According to the site Torrentnews.net, Jefjef10’s revenue from “Forum-ddl” totalled around €100 a month, which went on paying the cost of hosting the site.

The case comes just months after France ended its controversial “three strikes” law on illegal downloading which involved cutting off access to the internet for anyone caught downloading copyrighted material if they had ignored two previous email warnings.

According to figures published in Le Figaro the “Hadopi” law rarely resulted in cases coming to court, which was the last resort to deal with illegal downloaders who refused to heed the warnings.

During the three years the law was in place, only 51 cases were passed on to prosecutors, despite a total of 1.9 million email warnings being sent out.

France’s Ministry of Culture scrapped Hadopi in July saying the government would now be targeting “commercial piracy” – popular websites that take in advertising revenue for hosting uploads and downloads of copyrighted movies and music – with an escalating series of fines, which start at €60 for the first offense.

Do you think the punishment is to severe? Will it put you off illegally downloading material?

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