An administrator for two BitTorrent-related websites who was arrested in 2008 on allegations of copyright infringement and profiting from site advertising by trade group SACEM has been fined $29,000 by a French Court of Appeal, despite the fact that the court was unable to prove that illegal downloads took place and the sites did not receive any ad money.
In fact, the only justification the court could come up with that the admin had actually committed a crime was the fact that his websites, Torrentnews.net and Torrent-public-center.com, both contained the word “Torrent.”
The court papers, obtained by the French news bureau Numerama, include a statement which declares that “…the names of these sites [when they include the word ‘torrent’] encourage illegal activity. Torrent sites are accessed by users of the BitTorrent protocol which has a main, if not unique purpose, of enabling downloading of copyright protected works.”
Numerama editor Guillaume Champeau spoke with TorrentFreak regarding the verdict this week.
“The decision gives the impression of having been guided more by the desire to punish a state of mind, rather than by the strict application of the law or a rigorous analysis of the allegations,” Champeau explained.
“The court clearly sided with SACEM with this ruling, ignoring all the defendant arguments,” he continued. “It either did not fully understand the facts and misinterpreted the law that should have applied at least for the search engine part, or the court did it on purpose because it wanted the man sentenced so that it wouldn’t create a void other sites could enter into.”
The admin, who goes by the name Blackistef, has decided to give up his 3-year fight against SACEM and accept this punishment because he does not have the money to continue.
I would not go so far as to say that Backistef is innocent of any wrongdoing, however when a court uses the mere presence of a word to determine intent of criminal activity and leverage punishment rather than actual evidence, it is a very bad precedent indeed.