A fine-ful of dollars: Man ordered to pay PLN 47 mln for movie piracy

The Białystok Court of Appeal upheld a one-year prison sentence suspended and the obligation to pay copyright owners over... PLN 47 mln (EUR 10.3 mln) against a young man who illegally distributed thousands of films on the Internet and charged fees for watching them. The judgment is final.

The charges against the 25-year-old concerned activities from September 2015 to the beginning of October 2019, namely the distribution - without obtaining appropriate rights - on an internet website, of thousands of audiovisual works (the indictment mentioned nearly 62,600 movies) in order to achieve financial benefits.

The accused was the owner and sole administrator of this portal. Within a few years, his website had 300,000 registered users who paid for the content. The man was additionally charged with the so-called money laundering.

The prosecutor's office wanted a total of 3.5 years in prison without suspension for the culprit, and that request was included in her appeal. The defense and attorney of one of the auxiliary prosecutors wanted to uphold the sentence, arguing that the mere necessity to pay PLN 47 mln to the aggrieved entities is a sufficiently severe penalty.

It was pointed out that the fine was many times higher than the income the defendant obtained from illegal activities (which amounted to PLN 1.2 mln). The attorney of one of the companies harmed in this case argued that if the accused was imprisoned, the chances that he would start paying the debts would be minimal.

“In the opinion of the appellate court, the penalty imposed in the first instance, with this compensatory measure, will affect the accused for a very long time and there is no need to resort to absolute imprisonment,” said the judge.