If you’ve ever wondered what punishments await those who assist in copyright infringement in this digital day and age, the latest answer appears to be spending almost four years in prison. A German court has sentenced the alleged owner and operator of a file-sharing torrent site, Torrent.to, to three years and ten months in prison, according to reports.
The district court in Aachen sentenced the unnamed defendant – who goes by the pseudonym “Jens R” – despite the fact that he wasn’t actually in custody at the time; the Hollywood Reporter noted the court also issued an arrest warrant for the suspect at the time of the ruling, which is itself not even finalized at this time. In addition to charges relating to copyright infringement, he is wanted for breach of trust and potential fraudulant bankruptcy, with the latter charge relating to the suspicion that money earned via ad sales on Torrent.to have been transferred to international accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The 33-year-old Jens R has been under legal threat since 2006, when the Society for Prosecution of Copyright Infringement (or GVU, the acronym for the German version of the organization’s name) first brought action against the site. In response to the news of the sentence, the GVU released a statement yesterday, warning that the still-anonymous Jens may attempt to flee rather than face the court. “With regard to flight risk due to the heavy sentence, Jens R’s residence abroad, and continuing proceedings against him in the District Court of Aachen for bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement,” the statement explained, “the court immediately issued an arrest warrant for Jens R.”
Matthias Leonardy, the leader of the GVU, said that “this criminal operator has been convicted of intentionally exploiting the attractiveness of infringing media services on the Internet to generate profits,” something that he went on to describe as a “businesslike form of cyber crime.”
Leonardy likened the case to that of Dirk B., the equally pseudonymous founder of Kino.to, a site that was once Germany’s largest illegal file-sharing site. “We know also that the defendant [Jens R.] knew Kino.to leaders,” he said, adding that the successful prosecution of Dirk B. could be looked at as a blueprint of the prosecution of Jens R.
Last year, Dirk B. was given a four and a half year prison sentence for his involvement with the site. He was also forced to surrender up to $5 million USD of profit from the site, with his sentence and fine described as “reduced” as the result of a full confession and the expression of “extreme regret” for the damage caused by the site. Somewhere, Jens R has to be considering his few options…