Belgium’s Court of Appeal has upheld a decision against the operator of a card sharing network, increasing the penalty originally imposed by the court in Dinant.
The operator ran a card sharing network to 400 users that had bought a specially adapted decoder through eBay.
An accomplice also sold subscriptions to the operator’s network in exchange for a percentage of the subscription fee. The Court of Appeal analysed in detail the card sharing system and declared the system to be illegal and contrary to EU law and its national implementing measures.
The operator was originally sentenced to 150 hours of community service (or a 6 months jail sentence) by the criminal court of Dinant. After appealing against the decision the Court of Appeal of Liège confirmed the original judgement and increased the penalty to 250 hours of community service (or an 18 months jail sentence) and a fine of €1,800 (or an additional 3 months of imprisonment).
The accomplice was convicted by default to a sentence of 5 months imprisonment, and a fine of €550.
In addition, the Court of Appeal declared the income generated by the illegal practices forfeited (the amount was capped by the court) and awarded damages to the AAPA members that had brought the claim.
Commenting on this sentence, Christine Maury Panis, Vice-President of AAPA and Executive Vice-President and General Counsel of Viaccess-Orca , said that: “This case was a first, involving a joint action by most of the major pay TV operators and conditional access providers in Europe. Although the legal process has been at times slow, the result is positive. The decision provides an unambiguous and strong signal to courts, prosecutors and pirates that card sharing is clearly illegal and subject to severe and significant sentences
Since the network was established in 2007 the operator had earned over €100,000 from illegal activities. The investigative judge found links between card sharing networks in Belgium, France and Russia. The investigation also showed that the card sharing operator had filed false declarations of theft with pay-TV providers after the cards used for the card sharing network had been seized by the Belgian police.