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German website founder jailed

June 14, 2012

The founder of an illicit movie website has been given a four-and-a-half-year jail sentence in Germany. Prosecutors had said the "parasitic business" breached copyrights of the mainstream cinema and television industry.

Der Angeklagte und Gründer des illegalen Filmportals Kino.to, Dirk B., wird am Donnerstag (14.06.2012) in den Gerichtssaal im Landgericht Leipzig geführt. Im Prozess gegen den Gründer wird am Donnerstag (14.06.2012) voraussichtlich das Urteil gefällt. Der 39-jährige Angeklagte hat sich auf einen sogenannten Deal eingelassen. Foto: Peter Endig dpa/lsn (zu lsn 0181 vom 14.06.2012) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Urteil im Prozess gegen Kino.to-Gründer erwartetImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The regional court in Leipzig handed down a suspended plea-bargain sentence to the founder of kino.to, Dirk B., with conditions for his supervision outside of prison.

The 39-year-old former floor layer confessed to 1.1 million copyright breaches. Prosecutors had condensed these into three test cases. They had originally sought 11 years jail.

The Leipzig court also ordered Dirk B., to transfer 3.7 million euros ($4.7 million) in earnings from website advertising in Spain to Germany's state coffers.

District Court judge Karsten Nickel said it was obvious that the operation was the "most serious" copyright breach to become known within German jurisdiction.

The man from Leipzig had vacationed on the Spanish island of Mallorca after establishing the website kino.to in 2008, using the domain name assigned to Tonga. The site was actually based in Germany, with servers in the Netherlands.

File content amounting to 135,000 films, television episodes and documentaries were later transferred to Russia as film industry lawyers sought justice.

ARCHIV - Ein Finger zeigt am 08.06.2011 in Berlin auf einen Hinweis auf der Internetseite www.Kino.to. Anfang Juni sperrten Fahnder die Film-Plattform kino.to, durchsuchten Wohnungen, Büros und Rechenzentren. Nun wurden sie auch auf Konten fündig, die sie führenden Mitarbeitern des illegalen Internetportals zuordnen. Ein Leipziger gilt als Kopf der Bande. Foto: Tobias Kleinschmidt dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
A warning to users as the site was shut down in November 2011Image: picture-alliance/dpa

At its peak, four million visits were made daily to the web address, mostly by German Internet users, seeking movies for free. Once logged into the website, users were diverted to high-revenue advertisements.

Better known than Dotcom's site

Kino.to was far better known in Germany than Megaupload, the file-sharing site created by another German, Kim Dotcom. He is facing trial in Auckland, New Zealand and FBI efforts to get him extradited to the United States.

The court proceedings surrounding "kino," which is the German word for cinema, had already resulted in a jail term of almost four years for the website's main programmer and three-year terms last December for three other participants.

In recent months, German performance rights agencies and trade union organizations for artists, photographers, composers and authors have demanded adherence to German and EU copyright legislation.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle is bound by German law and the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

ipj/pfd (dpa, AP)