Swedish man sentenced to pay more than $650,000 for sharing movie online

The movie was shared to a platform that was not unlike the Pirate Bay, the public prosecutor said

A 28-year-old man convicted of sharing hundreds of movies online has to pay 4.3 million Swedish kronor (US$658,000) in civil damages for sharing one of them, the Västmanlands District Court ruled Tuesday.

The sum must be paid to Nordisk Film, a developer, producer and distributor of films, for "Beck, Levande begravd," ("Beck, Buried Alive"), a movie in a series about a Swedish police detective, said senior public prosecutor Henrik Rasmusson Wednesday. As is customary in Sweden, the defendant's name was withheld from the public.

The man shared the movie via the defunct file-sharing community Swebits, a platform that was not unlike the Pirate Bay, said Rasmusson. In contrast with the Pirate Bay though, Swebits was a closed community with approximately 40,000 members that was used to share mainly Swedish content, he said.

In total, Nordisk Film sought more than 7 million Swedish kronor in damages. The company asked for 5.5 million kronor because that was the amount the defendant would have had to pay if he wanted a license to distribute the movie in the way he did, Rasmusson said. The court found that demand too high and the amount was split in half, he added.

An extra 1.55 million kronor was awarded for other damages such as lost profits, market disruption and damages to the reputation of Nordisk Film, Rasmusson said.

The man was also convicted of sharing a total of 517 movies, including "Beck, Levande begravd," on Swebits in the criminal portion of the case, Rasmusson said. For those offenses the court sentenced him to 160 hours of community service with probation, he added.

Movie industry insiders decided to pursue civil damages for only one of the movies involved in the criminal case for several reasons, noted Henrik Pontén of the Rights Alliance, which represents media in infringement cases. It is very expensive to prove exact damages in court, and meanwhile, the damages for the one movie were high enough to send a message, he noted.

Meanwhile, when deciding a sentence for crimes like this a very important factor is whether the defendant gained personally from his actions, Rasmusson said.

When the four men behind the Pirate Bay were found guilty in 2009 in a similar case for example, the court ordered them to pay around 30 million Swedish kronor (US$3.6 million at the time) in damages for several rights infringements. The defendants were each initially sentenced to one year in prison.

In the Pirate Bay case however, the defendants had a commercial interest in file sharing, while in the Swebits case, the man who committed the crime did so without personal gain even though he was involved in administrating the site, Rasmussen noted. The man did it just to be "someone in the community," Rasmusson added.

The case can be appealed within three weeks. The defendant's lawyer, Max Ahlström, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Nordisk Film. Rasmusson said he will not appeal because he is satisfied with the sentence.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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