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World's First Jail Sentence for BitTorrent Piracy 280

Posted by Zonk
from the ouch-three-months-for-miss-congeniality dept.
Rob T Firefly writes "Hong Kong newspaper The Standard reports on what seems to be the world's first case of a BitTorrent movie pirate being sent to jail. (Others have been jailed for related crimes.) After losing his appeal against a November 2005 conviction, Chan Nai-ming, a 38-year-old BitTorrent user known as 'Big Crook,' has begun serving a prison sentence for making the films 'Daredevil,' 'Miss Congeniality,' and 'Red Planet' available for download via BitTorrent. His appeal was based on the fact that he did not profit from the piracy." From the article: "[Appeals Judge] Beeson noted [convicting magistrate] MacIntosh, in handing out the sentence, was fully aware of the noncommercial nature of the case, but measured the seriousness of the case by the harm done to the moviemakers — not by the gain made by the offender. Chan, and those in the chatroom, 'were aware of the possible criminal implications of uploading films to the system,' Beeson wrote. She also noted the sentence was already drastically reduced, from a maximum of four years, to three months, in order 'to reflect the novelty of the conviction.'
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World's First Jail Sentence for BitTorrent Piracy

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by joss (1346) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:59PM (#17242774) Homepage
    > BitTorrent movie pirate being sent to jail. (Others have been jailed for related crimes.) After losing his appeal against a November 2005 conviction, Chan Nai-ming, a 38-year-old BitTorrent user known as 'Big Crook,' has begun serving a prison sentence for making the films 'Daredevil,' 'Miss Congeniality,' and 'Red Planet' available for download via BitTorrent

    Damn, I didnt know bad taste was a jailable offence.
    • Re:wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:00PM (#17242804)
      Now if only they would arrest the people who were involved in making those movies ...
    • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ggwood (70369) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:03PM (#17242856) Homepage Journal
      Ya, and since "[the judge] measured the seriousness of the case by the harm done to the moviemakers" the sentence should be the movie makers handing cash to this guy. He's advertising their crappy movies for them, for free.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ggwood (70369)
        The Tomato Meter ratings of these films are: 14, 37, 44 - which (as I understand it) is the percent of favorable reviews.
    • by russ1337 (938915)
      >>> "Jailed for making the films 'Daredevil,' 'Miss Congeniality,' and 'Red Planet' available for download ....... MacIntosh, in handing out the sentence measured the seriousness of the case by the harm done to the moviemakers"

      I can see where they are coming from. I'd be embarrassed and 'harmed' by the general public seeing my totally crappy films too.
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:59PM (#17242790) Homepage Journal
    The article doesn't make it clear, but from the description, it sounds like he posted the .torrent files somewhere and either ran the tracker or put the whole mess on a site that would run it.

    If this actually applied to simply seeding the file as a peer (i.e. downloading via BitTorrent and leave the client running), then there's more of a potential chilling effect, as it sets a precedent for downloading-via-BT being the equivalent of distribution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jank1887 (815982)
      it sets a precedent for downloading-via-BT being the equivalent of distribution.

      Last I checked, since the protocol works such that having that file in that folder implies consent to upload the file, then yes, it is the equivalent of distribution. The question is only whether or not the distribution is illegal. It seems hard to argue that distribution takes place unless you can prove that you somehow turned off that feature.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by miyako (632510)
        As I understand it, the way bittorrent works means that even if I'm seeding a movie it's fairly unliikely that any one person will get the entire file from me, if there are a decent number of peers as well as plenty of other seeders.
        Assuming that you need at least, say, 75% of the file for it to be even semi-watchable, I would suspect that with the distributed nature of bittorrent, very few peers or seeders actually distribute enough of the file to any given person for it to really be that "person A got th
        • by jank1887 (815982)
          let the fake slashdot lawyers chime in to correct me, but I'm fairly certain that you don't have to get the whole file to be infringing. even a portion of the file is infringing distribution. now, how small? don't know. But if you're talking about a movie, my guess would be far less than 75%. even a 30 second segment of a 2.5 hour movie could be considered infringing if the copyright owner wanted to consider it that way. That's only 0.3%. Also, you shared the movie regardless of the number of other sha
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by miyako (632510)
            it's true that if I had 75% of the movie, that would definitely be copyrite violation. What I was wondering though is, if I have say, 50% of the bits in a file, but due to where those bits are, they are useless for playing back the file, is that still infringment?
            Now what if I have the whole file, but I never share out enough to anyone that they would watch the file just with what I've shared?
            I'm certainly not qualified to answer any of these questions, it's just sort of my brain wandering off into a tan
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by billcopc (196330)
              Bittorrent itself is just a protocol. If you were to encrypt the movie file and give the decryption key to everyone you want to share it with, then an outsider could not play back the movie. Now is an encrypted movie file still a movie ? Or is it just random garbage ?

              This could be interpreted at least two ways. You could say that it is like a car with no engine. Technically it's still a car, even though you can't operate it. This is likely what a large corporation would use for an argument. Let's tur
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eno2001 (527078)
      True. However, I expect that the RIAA and the MPAA WANT this to be a nebulous result. They don't want clarity so that anyone even THINKING of using BitTorrent will be dissuaded from doing so. If it was clear that he was operating at a higher level in the BitTorrent tree, then this case wouldn't be very noteworthy. Especially if people in the know made it clear to the less technically inclined but piracy prone end-users.
  • by Psionicist (561330) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:59PM (#17242792)
    Please remind me again how this man is so dangerous to society he must be locked up in jail.
    • by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:03PM (#17242864)
      You know sometimes we put people in jail for reasons other than they are dangerous, like to punish them... Otherwise a "white collar criminal" would never have to do jail time.
      • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:05PM (#17242908) Homepage Journal
        You try telling anyone whose life savings were vaporized by the fallout from Enron and such that white-collar criminals aren't dangerous.
        • by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:14PM (#17243092)
          Yes, but we didn't send the Enron guys to jail because they're dangerous. We sent them to jail because they were bad (among other reasons.) We could make Enron execs effectively harmless in the future by banning them from certain business positions.

          When we talk about sending someone to jail because they're dangerous it usually means preventing them from physically harming people in society at large.
          • by geekoid (135745)
            I'd just tax all income, not just monetary, at 100% for every dollar over 100 Grand.
            I'd sell all there assests. Give half to the spouse, take the rest.

            Use it to fund presecription drugs for all the people who lost there life savings. As much as you can, anyways.

            All the stocks they hqave for the company are immediatly sold, and all options exercised and taken.

            Also, take there drivers lisense away.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by twiddlingbits (707452)
            That approach has been used before. Remember the stock scam guy Micheal Milliken (sp?)from the 1990s? The Gov't banned him from ever working in the Securities industry as a broker. So what does he do, he makes millions as a "Consultant" to firms showing them how to avoid the scams like he ran and also showing them the loopholes he found that he didn't get caught for using. Kinda like hiring the hacker to show you how not to get hacked which has happened many times. The ability of the Enron execs to make an

          • Yes, but we didn't send the Enron guys to jail because they're dangerous. We sent them to jail because they were bad (among other reasons.)

            I'm not sure I understand what "bad" means within the context of jail. The reason why the Enron boys should (and did) go to jail was to deter other people from doing the same thing.

            We could make Enron execs effectively harmless in the future by banning them from certain business positions.

            Which would have little or no deterrance to stop anyone else from doing it again.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by AndersOSU (873247)
              There are many reasons for sending anyone to jail, some are better than others. The OP essentially assumed that the primary reason for incarceration was incapacitation - removing them from society to protect us. I responded that the punitive aspect of punishment is much more important in this case, and that there is essentially no need to incapacitate non-violent criminals.

              Clearly deterrence is another important aspect, which is why I added the "among other things" parenthetical.

              You might be right that in
        • by pluther (647209)
          But wouldn't it make more sense to, say, make them pay back the money they stole?
          Maybe 2-3 times what they took, so it serves as a deterrent. Instead, two or three of the Enron guys go to some country-club prison at taxpayer expense for a few months each, and they and everyone else involved gets to keep most of the money they took. How is that good for anyone but the criminals?

          Same with this guy: how many copies of the movie were actually downloaded? They're available for, what $15.00 each more or less?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Mister Whirly (964219)
            "Enron guys go to some country-club prison at taxpayer expense for a few months"
            Well, CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to more than a few months, he got 24 years - or 288 months to be exact. And former CFO Andrew Fastow was given a 6 year term after cooperating with prosecutors and helping them secure Skilling's conviction - or 72 months. Ken Lay would have probably got at least 10+ years, but the bastard died before we could punish him. Skilling also faces a possible $18 million dollar fine - still les
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Yartrebo (690383)
              "Skilling also faces a possible $18 million dollar fine - still less than he bilked investors and workers out of though..."

              Now compare this to the punishment for shoplifting. If the punishment were proportional, shoplifting a can of soda would get you a millisecond or seconds of jail time (not long enough for the cops to even get handcuffs on you) and a fine of perhaps ten cents - and you get to keep the soda.
        • by danpsmith (922127)
          You try telling anyone whose life savings were vaporized by the fallout from Enron and such that white-collar criminals aren't dangerous.

          Embezzlement and the complete destruction of a company along with pensions, savings, stocks and lives is hardly comparable to sharing a couple copies of some terrible movies with people on the Internet. That the people may or may not have even bought/watched if they weren't free.

          But nice try linking the two.

        • Actually, I would argue that in some rare cases that white-collar criminals are more dangerous then someone who murdered one person.

          Someone who wipes out the life savings of thousands upon thousands of people for example. I understand living in poverty means you still have your life, but only barely (i.e. being homeless, foodless, etc).

    • Please remind me again how this man is so dangerous to society he must be locked up in jail.

      And house arrest sounds like a smart option to you?

      Jail sentances are not only to keep away people from the rest of us, it's about punishment too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)
        Yes, but there are other punishments.
        Public service comes to mind.

        Jails should be about rehabiltating people.
        • by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:18PM (#17243124)
          Jails are for lots of things, rehab is perhaps the aspect they are least effective at.
          • Does anyone really still harbor the illusion the jail is for rehabilitation?? Jail is for revenge and punishment... oh, and to learn how to become a better criminal, and make better criminal connections...
            • by geekoid (135745)
              Jail SHOULD be about rehabilitation, currently it is not, and can not be because we have too many people in them for stupid reasons.
        • I agree with you. Unfortunately, US prisons have largely checked themselves out of the rehabilitation process for many years now. Most people, it would seem, are more interested in revenge than in attempting to foster any good that may still be left in those that commit crimes.

          My personal opinion is that this glorifies our basest instincts and shuts out our most human. In other words, choosing to only punish criminals is really a choice to hurt ourselves.

          TW
        • Society doesn't benefit by this man in Jail.

          I could imagine, that this person is unlikely to commit this crime again.
          Deterrence would work -- but only for White Collar criminals.

          Prison should not be intended as a punishment. It is to protect others, or to rehabilitate. We have way too many people in prison -- now the most of any country. Being abused by some dangerous thugs, is not much good for making a better person come out of prison -- we are basically throwing away a human life.

          And nobody should be in
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bidule (173941)
          Jails should be about rehabiltating people.

          <deadpan>
          So should death penalty.
          </deadpan>
      • And house arrest sounds like a smart option to you?

        Jail sentances are not only to keep away people from the rest of us, it's about punishment too.


        I could be wrong, but I suspect that after a certain age most people are not motivated by potential (or previous) punishments so I suspect that "punishing" criminals is mostly a pointless act. Now, if your goals are protection of society and rehabilitation of the criminal (and your penal system was properly structured) house arrest would be a smart option; at $65,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Society is a collection of rules.
      He broke the rules, and it being punished for it.
      Rightr now, society says the punishment is jail.

      Hopefully society will change where a judge will be able to come up with punishments that aren't so expensive to institute.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Society is a collection of rules"

        Rules made by a few for the many.

        The few, are in the pockets of the Corporations.
        • I mean, that's a collection of rules and people were made to obey the rules.
          Sure several million people were murdered for being the wrong race...but that was the law at the time!

          really dude...
          • by geekoid (135745)
            First off, don't compare copyright infringement to the mass murder of millions.
            It's really bad taste, and doesn't really make any point.

            And if I am not mistaken society ended it. People fighting back were part of society, and society can make change.

            One group of people does not make up all of society. One group of people with guns forcing people against there will is not society either.

            If society was happy with it, then it would have continued.
            Don't forget that society dictates what is moral. So if society
      • by E++99 (880734)
        Rightr now, society says the punishment is jail.
        Hopefully society will change where a judge will be able to come up with punishments that aren't so expensive to institute.

        What ever happened to sending criminals to Australia? That seemed to be working.

        BTW, I'm not so sure that China's version of jail is "expensive to institute."
      • One correction (Score:3, Interesting)

        by linguae (763922)

        s/society/government/g

        There. That fixes the argument. There is a big difference between society and government. Society is simply a collection of people, whereas government is the ruling force of a jurisdiction of land. In some cases the society and government are somewhat intertwined, whereas in other cases the government is far removed from the society that it is governing.

      • Hopefully society will change where a judge will be able to come up with punishments that aren't so expensive to institute.

        Perhaps he could be forced to actually watch those movies, though at least one of them could be considered "cruel and unusual". Lucky for him he didn't distribute "Miss Congeniality 2"...

      • by vishbar (862440)

        Hopefully society will change where a judge will be able to come up with punishments that aren't so expensive to institute.

        They have. Corporal punishment, lashings, flaying, and execution (I'm not talking pretty little gas-chamber humane execution, but charging the family of the dearly departed a bill for the bullet). The problem is, the cheap methods aren't humane.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StikyPad (445176)
        If society is a collection of rules, and he broke the rules, then he broke society!

        Society is not a collection of laws, it's a collection of people, and in most societies the majority of those people are at least two steps removed from creating, or causing the creation, of law. Hopefully the morons who decided that non-profit copyright infringement is a criminal offense will reconsider.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      He allowed rich people to have less money. There is no higher law.
      • by owlnation (858981)
        He allowed rich people to have less money. There is no higher law.
        In his defense, they wouldn't have lost much money. Not with those movies.
    • by PingSpike (947548)
      Because fining poor people doesn't work and for some reason we don't have debtors prisons anymore.
      • by mark-t (151149)
        Debtor's prison has been abolished in most civilized countries because it is considered an unfair punishment. It treats people who are having financial difficulties in the same manner as violent criminals, and it makes a positive solution that much more unlikely. People who are free are generally more productive, and will be that much more likely to be able to pay off the debt eventually.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mark-t (151149)

      He's not a direct danger to society, obviously*

      Now if copyright infringers aren't actually punished when they are caught, and most importantly, the severity of the punishment is sufficient to minimize the incentives to do so in a straightforward risk/gain analysis, the chance of a repeat infraction after the penalty has been paid is minimized.

      Fining people impossible amounts of money usually doesn't accomplish anything, because if they don't have that much then there's nothing they can do, and if they

  • by Hubbell (850646) <brianhubbellii@li[ ]com ['ve.' in gap]> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:00PM (#17242794)
    He would have gotten away with it due to the fact that they mention a chatroom, which more than likely means IRC, and nearly every single IRC channel related to piracy has the standard: If you are an agent of the government, you cannot enter here yadayada legalspeak yadayada.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You may not realize this, but you're being modded funny because that statement is completely worthless. An IRC channel that says government agents aren't allowed to enter has no more meaning than an opium den with a sign above it that says police aren't welcome.
      • I remember reading an interview with some "cybercrime" expert in the early 1990s, who collected printouts of the "if you're law enforcement you're not allowed to login or nark on me" screens from underground BBSes, just because they were so incredibly funny and naiive.
  • I don't know what's worse: that he's being jailed for 3 months for "distribustion" or that people actually wanted to download Daredevil, Miss Congeniality, and Red Planet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kelson (129150) *
      This reminds me of something that happened back in college.

      I was living on campus that year, in student housing. Early in the year, figuring some sort of file-sharing was useful within the house, I set up two public shares, one read-only and one write-only. A folder where I could post things and a dropbox. Within a few months I'd forgotten about the dropbox.

      Sometime the following year I was cleaning up the system and stumbled across the folder. Embarrassingly, I discovered two very large MPEG files conta
      • by Gospodin (547743)

        Kind of ironic, too, isn't it? I mean, that the movie that was uploaded was Entrapment?

      • by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @05:08PM (#17244112) Journal
        That's nothing. I worked at a campus computer research lab at a major US university. Somebody got into our system through an old forgotten Sparc workstation that hadn't been patched. They deleted the entire contents of our home directories and replaced it with 40GB of porn, that they then proceeded to share through IRC. This was about 6 or 7 years ago, when 40GB was an ungodly amount of anything.

        We had nightly backups of our home directories and all our work, so we don't lose anything. It was really kind of hard to be mad at anybody who gives you 40GB of porn.
  • Saturation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:03PM (#17242866)
    To review the saga:


    Here [slashdot.org] Hong kong announces their plan to find people violating copyright using BitTorrent.

    Here [slashdot.org] is the report where they actualy find a guy.

    The conviction [slashdot.org].

    Now he has been sentenced. Hooray, we were right there with you all the way dude, at least in a metaphorical sense.

    As a contest, the prize for which is my unending admiration, lets all agree not to rehash the same tired arguments in the 3 links above.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lead Butthead (321013)
      Now he has been sentenced. Hooray, we were right there with you all the way dude, at least in a metaphorical sense.

      In the mean time, pirated DVDs continued to be manufactured (and I mean serious manufacturing, not a couple of guys with a dozen or two DVD burners) and sold by street vendors.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:04PM (#17242884)
    "I'm a Mac, and you're going to jail."
  • Confession (Score:4, Informative)

    by spyrochaete (707033) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:09PM (#17242988) Homepage Journal
    Chan also advertised the movies, and the procedure for downloading the files, on an online chatroom.

    So basically he confessed and bragged about his l33titude, just like a little script kiddie bragging about defacing a website on an IIS 3.0 server. Had he not done this, perhaps it would have been more difficult to prove that he was sharing this movie and not just random blocks of binary code that happened to be very similar to those found in one rendition of the AVI files.

    If you're going to share something iffy on BitTorrent use a public tracker that doesn't require logins, and maybe use an anonymous proxy like TOR. This isn't a 100% safe solution but it's likely better than what this chap did.
  • Actual harm done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LParks (927321) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:14PM (#17243074)
    "MacIntosh, in handing out the sentence, was fully aware of the noncommercial nature of the case, but measured the seriousness of the case by the harm done to the moviemakers"

    I imagine that the moviemakers actually did lose sales on these products, because most of the people that downloaded and watched these movies probably realized how bad they were and lost interest in purchasing them.

    These companies want you to be blindfolded, and purchase based on 30 second blurbs with a catchy voice saying exciting things. When people see product they can make an actual informed purchase (or non-purchase).
    • by eltonito (910528)

      "These companies want you to be blindfolded, and purchase based on 30 second blurbs with a catchy voice saying exciting things. When people see product they can make an actual informed purchase (or non-purchase)."

      I often do the very same thing at the grocery. I open up a package of something I saw advertised and eat some of it to see if it tastes good. If it sucks I don't purchase it. I really can't figure out why store managers get so upset about it, I'm just trying to make an informed purchase.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rk (6314) *

        Questionable analogy aside, there are grocery stores that let you do this if you were to just ask. I know it's a Whole Foods chainwide policy to let you do this, and if you at least ask nicely, many other grocers will let you try a new product free. Some days, they even try to push samples of new or featured products on you. Barring all that, call a manufacturer. They are very likely to give out a "get our product free" coupon and send it to you if you only ask.

        Movie makers could learn from this, put

  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:14PM (#17243080) Homepage Journal
    There are a ton of snarky "lol the movies sucked" comments being posted, and that's all good, but it's actually interesting to note that this very fact formed another part of Chan's failed appeal. FTA:
    Beeson seconded MacIntosh in rejecting the argument the movies "were neither current, nor in the `blockbuster' category." She wrote: "A court was not in a position to assess the quality or value of such material."
    • by owlnation (858981)
      "A court was not in a position to assess the quality or value of such material."
      Um, yes, but isn't that what happens - at least in part - during copyright cases?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JonathanR (852748)

      "[Appeals Judge] Beeson noted [convicting magistrate] MacIntosh, in handing out the sentence, was fully aware of the noncommercial nature of the case, but measured the seriousness of the case by the harm done to the moviemakers -- not by the gain made by the offender.
      So she made no judgement on the value of the movies, but still could determine that harm was done sufficient to warrant a jail term?
  • I mean seriously, those movies are awful. So awful, in fact, that the only way I can imagine anyone watching them is if you did give them away. Using the judges logic, the studio did significant damage to themselves way before this guy unleashed the big nasty bit torrent.
  • ...has begun serving a prison sentence for making the films 'Daredevil,' 'Miss Congeniality,' and 'Red Planet' available for download...

    How the hell are we supposed to get modded funny when the friggin jokes write themselves??

  • by east coast (590680) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:22PM (#17243216)
    Chan Nai-ming, a 38-year-old BitTorrent user known as 'Big Crook,'

    In prison his user name will be "Ben Dover"
  • Don't illegally download copyrighted material under the user name of "Big Crook"!
  • $EVIL_PIRATE has begun serving a prison sentence for making the films 'Daredevil,' 'Miss Congeniality,' and 'Red Planet'


    Sounds fair to me.
  • Only in China (Score:2, Interesting)

    by b.burl (1034274)
    can you imprision for something so stupid and inconsequential. oh, and the u.s. And can anyone actually cite an independent piece of research that shows if file sharing actually hurts the industry, and if so by how much. Everyone just assumes this tech hurts movie/record companies...but as far as I know, no non-industry funded research has shown this. & the tobbacco industry showed us how good industry science can be. Whereas the enron guys devestated peoples lives.
  • ...of 'bad taste in movies' comments.

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

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