A recent decision of the Three-Member Court of Appeals of Komotini (Felonies Department), dated 19/11/2019, has been intensely debated by the national media as resulting to the first “real” prison sentence that has ever been imposed in our country to a website owner for illegally distributing copyright-protected content. Although the judgement has not been published yet, according to the media, the owner of the “pirate” websites “greekstars.net” and “greekstars.co”, has been sentenced to five years in prison for illegal distribution of audiovisual works, music, books, computer programs, and video games and has been led to prison immediately after hearing the verdict. Although the law also provides for a monetary penalty, this was withdrawn by the Judges due to mitigating circumstances.
Between 2009 and 2012, the particular accused person had been prosecuted four times but, despite having been previously arrested, he continued his illegal activities by changing the domain-name of the websites he owned. In fact, on 17/04/2019, the Three-Member Court of Appeals of Thessaloniki (Felonies Department), had already convicted the same person to a suspended sentence of five years for a similar (copyright) offense for the function of “greekstars.biz”, another pirate website he used with a different domain-name.
The abovementioned practice is very common between the “unrepentant pirates” who choose to continue their illegal, but highly profitable, activity by defying the severity of the penalties imposed. According to an announcement made by the Society for the Protection of Audiovisual Works (Greek Acronym “EPOE”), this has been an important judgement as a conviction of a forum that used, inter alia, links that led to browsers like RAPIDSHARE, EASYBYTEZ etc., in order to broadcast and share copyright-protected works without authorization.
The Society for the Protection of Audiovisual Works monitors on a daily basis the internet, in order to track websites that infringe copyright legislation. This is a really tough and time-consuming process which is carried out in cooperation with the Cyber-Crime Unit of the Greek Police. Furthermore, one of the other tasks that the abovementioned society performs is the submission of requests to the Hellenic Copyright Organization (“HCO”, Greek Acronym “OPI”) in order to block illegal websites and threaten penalties to the offenders. According to the legal representative of the abovementioned Society, online piracy has been reduced in Greece during the last decade, but the problem still persists. To be more specific, he mentions that 280 “illegal” Greek websites have been recorded during this whole period, but only 45 to 50 are still online today, while five of them are unfortunately quite popular.
In any case, we have to admit that this case is quite important as it demonstrates the attitude of the country’s justice system towards copyright infringers who attempt to deceive the law enforcement and judicial authorities by altering the domain name of their “pirate” websites, and thus continuing their illegal activity. This conviction seems that the good old times have passed by for the owners of pirate websites in Greece… So, let’s see!