German Copyright Pirate Gets 3 Year, 5 Month Prison Sentence

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Court finds the 47-year-old man earned more than $800,000 operating illegal filesharing site

BERLIN– A German Internet pirate has received a 3-year, 5-month prison sentence, the most severe punishment ever handed out by a German court for online copyright infringement.

A court in Leipzig found the 47-year-old man guilty of helping to develop and operate the notorious filesharing site, which police shut down earlier this year after coordinated raids in several European countries.

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The court heard evidence that the man earned more than $800,000 (€630,000) through online advertising and subscription schemes on, half of it pure profit. At its height was the most popular German-language filesharing site with more than 10,000 films on offer.

Thursday’s ruling is the third prison sentence handed out in connection with the case. A fourth defendant, who uploaded films to the server but was not involved in the operation of the site, received a 1-year, 9-month suspended sentence.

In a controversial move, district court judge Mathias Winderlich also made it clear that, in his opinion, even watching illegal video steams online constituted a violation of copyright law. Currently under German law the unauthorized downloading and duplication of copyright-protected material is illegal but watching pirated video streamed online was a legally grey area.

Winderlich said the Leipzig court understood “illegal duplication” to mean “illegal downloading” when applied to online piracy. He argued that because watching streaming video online requires the temporary downloading of successive data packets, a user may be considered to be duplicating the material and thus may be guilty of copyright violation.