Oct 18, 2023 2 min read

French court order operators of defunct file-sharing site to pay €489 million in damages

A French court has handed down jail sentences to two men involved in running a long defunct file-sharing service called T411 - and also ordered them to pay €489 million in damages, €18 million to French collecting society SACEM

French court order operators of defunct file-sharing site to pay €489 million in damages

A French court has handed down jail terms to two people previously involved in running a popular file-sharing service and awarded copyright owners a staggering €489 million in damages.

The French authorities managed to shut down T411 - a torrent tracker with over five million registered users - back in 2017. Although it primarily catered towards a French-speaking audience, and had moderators within France, the service's founder was based in Canada and a key system operator was a Ukrainian living in Sweden.

Criminal proceedings then began and they recently reached their conclusion in the Criminal Court in Rennes. Both the founder - identified as Mr Jolicoeur in the French press - and the system operator Mr Voitenko were found guilty of crimes in relation to the running of the copyright infringing file-sharing operation.

Jolicoeur was sentenced to three years in jail and ordered to pay a €150,000 fine. However, he remains in Canada and wasn't present in court for the sentencing. The French authorities are now relying on their Canadian counterparts to respond to an international arrest warrant that has been issued.

Voitenko was handed over to the French authorities as they began their criminal investigation back in 2017 and, as a result, he was detained in France for a few months in that year. He was handed an eighteen month jail term, though most of it was a suspended sentence meaning that - given the time he has already spent in detention - he won't return to prison.

However, there remains the matter of the mega-damages also awarded by the French court. Given the scale of the T411 operation, judges decided to set damages at a massive €489 million.

That is more than ten times the damages awarded when the founders of The Pirate Bay were found guilty of copyright crimes in the Swedish courts, and is significantly more than the $105 million Limewire's founder agreed to pay in an out of court settlement.

Most of the money - if it's ever paid - will go to the movie and TV studios, as most of the content shared via T411 was video-based, although €18 million of the damages are due to French song rights collecting society SACEM.

Voitenko is liable for 30% of the damages, so in excess of €146 million. However, he has said he plans to appeal the ruling and, even if that fails, it seems unlikely he will ever be able to pay anywhere near that sum.

He told Torrentfreak: “I’m not going to pay it, but even if I am forced to do so, I will quit the job and live on social benefits for jobless people instead. Otherwise, I need to work 3500 years to pay [damages of that scale]".

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