French Court Sentences File-Sharer

Teacher to pay €10,200 in damages.

In the first high-profile case of its kind in France, a civil court yesterday (Feb. 2) sentenced a 28-year-old file-sharer to pay a suspended fine of €3,000 ($3,940), plus €10,200 ($13,300) in damages.

The magistrates’ tribunal of Pontoise in the suburbs of Paris found schoolteacher Alain Oddoz guilty of downloading 10,000 unauthorized tracks and making them available on the Internet to other file-sharers, as well as burning some of the tracks to CDs. In its judgment, the court said the act of counterfeiting had been established.

The court said the suspended fine would become applicable if the defendant commits another similar offense.

French collecting societies SCPP and SPPF, authors' right society Sacem and mechanical rights society SDRM were plaintiffs in the case, which the tribunal heard in December.

SCPP had sought €8,366 ($10,907) in damages and was awarded €3,000. Sacem and SDRM were each awarded €3,000 on claims of €5,000 ($6,520). SPPF was awarded €1,200 ($1,565) on a claim of €3,000.

SCPP director general Marc Guez calls the court decision “educational” in that it recognized that counterfeiting had occurred. He regrets that the sentence and the damages were not higher but still views the amount as “a deterrent.”

SPPF welcomed the “balanced and exemplary decision.” The organization says it is convinced that such rulings will have an educational impact and will cause P2P users to turn to legitimate sites.

For consumer watchdog group UFC-Que Choisir, the judgment shows “that the current law is not adapted to the digital environment.” The organization considered the legal procedure inappropriate and called for a change to intellectual property law. “At some point, we’ll all be using P2P software,” the group says.

The case began when police who specialize in new technologies noticed in February 2004 that an Internet user was offering a vast amount of music files under the alias Altzpunk. The offender had 30G worth of MP3 files -- the equivalent of 10,000 tracks -- on his hard drive available for downloading. He was using the P2P software Direct Connect Plus Plus.

The police identified Altzpunk as Oddoz through his IP address. They obtained a warrant to search his home in August 2004.

Oddoz's lawyer, Murielle Cahen, said during the trial in December that her client was not selling music but downloading it for personal use.


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