Belfast court passes suspended prison sentences on file-sharers

January 2014

Motion pictures, software


Two men have received suspended sentences in the Belfast Crown Court for their involvement in running the file-sharing operation Araditracker, which was mainly known for providing unlicensed access to movies and software. Hugh Reid and Marcus Lewis, a father and son-in-law now based in Belfast and Suffolk respectively, took “donations” for about a year from people who used Araditracker to access free music, movie and software files. In late 2007 the film industry’s Federation Against Copyright Theft took action, forcing Araditracker offline, though Reid and Lewis quickly set up an alternative service.

Reid’s Belfast home was raided in August 2008, and Lewis’s home, then in North Wales, was similarly raised three months later. Prosecutors said that they secured a range of evidence to prove the two men’s involvement in the file-sharing operation, which Reid seemingly first set up when his radiator business hit the hard times in 2006. The two men pleaded guilty to the infringement crimes, which Judge Philpot tdescribed as “nothing less than theft”, adding to the two men “you must have known from an early stage that this was criminal behaviour” adding: “There are people who work here locally making films, both in this jurisdiction and elsewhere, as well as the people who work in cinemas and in DVD distribution. These are the people who are all affected by your copyright infringements”.

A confiscation hearing will now take place, with prosecutors seeking to recover £33,000 from Reid. His defence team said their client “had the means” to settle that matter. The Belfast ruling follows a judgement in the Swedish courts earlier this week, where a former moderator of file-sharing site Swebits received a suspended sentence and was fined $652,000 for sharing over 500 movies and TV shows – the equivalent amount the studio would have charged for a license to distribute the movie for free. The 28 year old also was sentenced to160 hours community service.

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