Operator of Germany's Torrent.to Gets Prison Sentence Amid Piracy Crackdown

Twentieth Century Fox

A German court sentences the operator of the file-sharing site to nearly four years in prison, one of the toughest-ever punishments for Internet piracy.

COLOGNE, Germany – A German court has handed down one of the toughest-ever sentences for Internet piracy, convicting the 33-year-old operator of the file-sharing site torrent.to to 3 years and 10 months in prison for copyright infringement.

While the ruling is not yet final, the district court in Aachen also issued an arrest warrant for the subject, who is also under investigation for breach of trust and fraudulent bankruptcy. The court suspects he may have transferred the ill-gotten gains from advertising on torrent.to -- said to be a large five-digit monthly sum -- to accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

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The ruling comes almost exactly a year after Dirk B., the founder of kino.to, received a four and a half year prison sentence for running what was then Germany's largest illegal file-sharing site. The Aachen court compared torrent.to to kino.to, saying torrent.to had taken over as the market leader in illegal downloads since kino.to was shut down by European authorities in 2011.

A general crackdown on real or perceived Internet piracy is continuing apace across Europe.

Last week Norway took a further step towards amending its copyright law to make it easier for rights holders to monitor individual file-sharers and have sites such as The Pirate Bay blocked. In April, Rome's public prosecutor targeted a total of 27 file-sharing sites, ordering them to be blocked or shut down. And in March, British broadband operators BT, Virgin Media, O2 and Be There began to block access to file-sharing sites KickassTorrents, H33T and Fenopy, following a High Court order that ruled the sites were facilitating online piracy.