Czech Pirate Party launches unauthorized movie download site | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 16.08.2011
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Czech Pirate Party launches unauthorized movie download site

Tipnafilm.cz provides links to other sites to download unofficial digital copies. The new site, which exists in a legal grey area in the Czech Republic, has not yet had any response from the entertainment industry.

Film reel

In the Czech Republic, there aren't many easy online options for watching movies

The Czech Pirate Party has launched a new website that the global entertainment industry isn't going to be too happy about.

The site, which started last month, contains links to Hollywood blockbusters on popular file-sharing sites. Plus, those links are ranked both by download speed and also by how they fare on established movie websites like IMDB - and it has links to many of the latest hits, including "Harry Potter" and "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

The founders of tipnafilm.cz ("Tip for a film") launched the site as a direct response to the prosecution of a Czech teenager for launching a similar site earlier this year.

Since the site went online on July 28, over 100,000 people have accessed tipnafilm.cz - which the Pirate Party says is proof that the people are on its side.

The party says if they succeed in keeping the site online, the influence of the copyright lobby would be severely hampered, something that would have major implications for downloading in the Czech Republic and perhaps throughout Europe.

The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay, a similar site in Sweden, faces fines of millions of euros

A legal grey area

"I don't want to go to a shop to buy a DVD with a movie where I have to wait 10 minutes while I skip all the anti-piracy adverts, and the shop's open only until 6:00 pm, and I decide at 8:00 pm that I want to watch a movie, and it's available for three clicks and I can watch it right away," explained Mikulas Ferjencik, the party's vice president, in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "So why should I go to the store?"

However, when pressed, Ferjencik also said that the new site exists in a sort of grey area and that the Czech Republic is behind other European and North American countries in that there aren't many legal movie downloading services.

"I can imagine getting an account on a movie website if it makes it more comfortable for me," he added. "I think much more important with piracy than it's free is that it's really comfortable.”

Currently in the Czech Republic, copying something for one's own use is not illegal. Neither is the act of downloading it from the Internet. But sharing something that's been copyrighted - like a film or CD - is illegal. The Pirate Party believes it should be legal, however, which is why they created tipnafilm.cz in the first place.

If other European legal precedent is any guide, tipnafilm.cz's founders may suffer the same fate as the founders of The Pirate Bay, a similar file-sharing linking site from Sweden. Its four founders lost their appeal in a Swedish court last fall and were collectively sentenced to a total fine of 46 million crowns (nearly 5 million euros).

Pirate Party t-shirt

Pirate parties are on the rise in many countries around the world, including Germany

Czech entertainment distributors stay quiet

Tipnafilm.cz's creation was a response to the prosecution of a 16-year-old from the town of Liberec, who created his own, much more modes linking site earlier this year.

The case brought against the Liberec teen was filed by the country's Anti-Piracy Union, which represents film and music distribution companies.

The Union declined to be interviewed, but its director, Marketa Prchalova, spoke to Czech Television earlier this month. She described the suspended sentences handed down to a group of students who were running an illegal download server at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

"Unfortunately here in the Czech Republic, first-time offenders who break the law on intellectual property only receive suspended sentences," Prchalova said. "It's extremely rare even for offenders to receive a fine. I'm more or less reconciled to the situation in the Czech Republic, but it is a sad state of affairs."

The Czech Pirate Party says so far no-one - neither the Anti-Piracy Union nor the police - has contacted them about tipnafilm.cz, but they're already lining up a team of lawyers to deal with a potential legal suit.

Other digital activists from around the continent have applauded this new Czech site.

"Almost 20 studies that have in common being both independent and scientific - that means relying on peer-reviewed methodology - prove the opposite of what the industry says," said Jeremie Zimmerman, the head of La Quadrature du Net, a French digital rights advocacy group. "They prove that there is very little if no connection at all between file sharing and revenue loss."

Author: Rob Cameron / cjf
Editor: Kate Bowen

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