UK man given first custodial sentence for piracy as torrent sites continue to flourish

In a milestone case, a man from Liverpool in the UK has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of illegally distributing top 40 chart singles online.

The 39 year old had been uploading the latest singles to a variety of torrent sites, as well as distributing acapella tracks intended for DJ-ing and creating remixes through his own site.

The sentence is the result of a joint investigation between PRS for Music and the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and is the first custodial sentence to arise from the two organisations working together.

The organisations said that the man had potentially cost the music industry millions of pounds and according to Detective Constable Steven Kettle, who was in charge of the case, “his actions will have affected jobs across the music industry.”

Making an example

Interestingly, as this news has come out an infamous torrenting site called KickassTorrents has announced that it will be relaunching, only months after it was shut down by the US Government following a criminal investigation. 

Shortly after the shutdown, a group of the site’s admins and members began working to get the site back up and they’ve managed it even without the original code and data tied to those who were technically and financially responsible for the site. 

In fact, the site looks almost identical to its previous incarnation and many of its most proliferous uploaders have returned to populate it with content. 

According to the Katcr Crew “KAT is a community-based forum and a torrent search engine. It’s the heart of who we are and that will never change. Despite opinions to the contrary, torrents are not illegal and we do not host any content.

“So long as Kickass Torrents continues to operate to the absolute letter of the law then we are most certainly not conducting criminal activities.” 

The fact that the owners of the original KickassTorrent site are still facing investigation and their site has come back from the grave regardless doesn’t say much for the effectiveness of targeting individuals as the UK court has done.

With so many people populating these sites uploading and downloading torrents, it doesn’t seem likely that serving individuals with custodial sentences will have much of an impact. 

Then again, shutting the sites down doesn’t seem to slow the pace of illegal sharing either, which leaves courts and rights holders across the globe in a very difficult position. 

At the moment, though the courts clearly mean business, it appears their attempts to plug the flood of online piracy are more akin to throwing a sponge in the ocean. 

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.