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French court orders creators of Canadian pirate website to pay €489m

The sum equates to the estimated revenue lost by the film and music industry due to illegal downloading via the site

The compensation awarded is thought the highest ever in France for such an offence Pic: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

In addition to damages, the Rennes Criminal Court also handed prison sentences to a co-creator and an administrator of the popular torrenting site Torrent411, also known as T411.

The site’s administrator was present at the trial, and must pay 30% of the damages (around €150 million), with the rest to be paid by the site’s creator. 

The administrator was also given an 18-month prison sentence, with 13 of these months suspended. However, he will not serve jail time having already served five months in detention awaiting trial.

The creator of T411 was not present at the hearing and is subject to an arrest warrant in France. In addition to paying 70% of the damages, he was given a three-year prison sentence and a separate fine of €150,000.

Compensation equated to lost industry revenues

The compensation award covers the revenue lost by the film and music industries due to illegal downloading on the site – €471 million is to go to the film industry, and the remaining €18 million to the music industry. 

These are estimates of the total revenue lost due to illegal downloads from the website. 

T411 was a torrenting site, meaning users could upload files which others could then download in turn for free.

For example, if one user uploaded a new film, other users could connect to the site to download a copy, which they could then watch without paying. 

Torrenting itself is not illegal, but sites such as T411 often hosted copyrighted material which is illegal both to distribute and download for free.

How popular was T411?

T411 was the preeminent French language torrenting site until its closure in 2017.

It was created in 2008 and was based on the model of another pirate website called Quebec Torrent.

It quickly grew to become one of the biggest websites to offer free illegal downloads of films, music, audiobooks and video games.

At the time of its closure T411 hosted around 750,000 pieces of digital media, including almost 400,000 films or video clips, over 100,000 songs, and 28,000 video games. 

T411 was extremely popular throughout the Francophone world, with over five million regular users at its height. 

In 2015, the French court demanded for the site to be blocked within the country, but the rule was only lightly enforced, and several workarounds were possible. These included the use of VPNs and hosting the website using different domain names. 

In 2017, Swedish police raided the site’s ‘headquarters’ (where the servers were held), while simultaneously, French police made several arrests, shutting the site down definitively.

The site’s forced closure drew criticism from a number of quarters, including from the magazine Charlie Hebdo, with the magazine’s editors saying it equated to a loss of “humanity’s heritage” due to the rarity of some of the files hosted on the website, particularly those in French. 

Related articles: 

How will France’s online safety bill protect you from scammers?

This online tool helps you guard against identity theft in France

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