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A 50-year-old man was handed a four-month prison sentence this week for his involvement with the Danish torrent trackers Asgaard and NordicBits. The man, who is seen as one of the ringleaders behind the now-defunct sites, helped to arrange servers and provided customer service, among other things. The Danish prosecution, meanwhile, warns that users of these sites can be targeted too.
Private torrent sites with Danish roots have long been the go-to place for file-sharers in Denmark.
Up until late last year these torrent trackers were thriving communities. However, they swiftly collapsed when the Danish Government’s SØIK’s IP-Task Force got involved.
It started in September and October 2020 when DanishBits and NordicBits went offline after their operators were caught.
One operator of NordicBits, who confirmed his involvement, was apprehended in Spain but passed away soon after. A few weeks later, law enforcement arrested another suspected ringleader behind the site, a 50-year-old man from Middelfart.
NordicBits Operator Moved to Asgaard
According to the prosecution, the man wasn’t just part of NordicBits. He later switched to the torrent tracker Asgaard, which grew explosively late last year after the other trackers were shut down.
This surge in popularity was just temporary. When it became clear that law enforcement and anti-piracy group Rights Alliance were determined to shut down all torrent trackers, Asgaard’s staff threw in the towel voluntarily and released a prophetic statement.
“The thought of having to risk the doorbell ringing one day for a visit from the police overshadows the coziness of running this project. We will not expose you to that. Or ourselves. We have therefore chosen to close the ASGAARD project,” Asgaard’s staff wrote mid-December.
A few days after this message was posted, police arrested the 50-year-old man, who subsequently spent Christmas and New Year in prison.
This week, the Odense court sentenced the operator to a four-month prison sentence, of which three months are conditional.
The man is held accountable for helping to share thousands of films, TV series, music tracks, comics, and books. His involvement was quite broad. Among other things, he rented a server, set up payment services, and handled customer support requests.
No Victimless Crime
Prosecutor Christian Raaholt Hahn stresses that piracy isn’t a victimless crime. It not only harms the copyright holders but also people who work for these companies including actors and makeup artists. The sentencing confirms that this won’t go unpunished.
“I am very pleased with the verdict today, because it sends a clear signal to both backers and users that there will be a severe crackdown,” the prosecutor says.
Maria Fredenslund, Director of the Rights Alliance, is happy with the outcome as well. It is especially important to crack down on people who move to new trackers, as these keep the problem intact.
“With this case, SØIK shows an effective and focused effort. This is absolutely crucial when backers behind private services try to build new platforms from the ground up. By quickly cracking down on backers and platforms, we can keep the illegal market in check and thereby avoid many future violations,” Fredenslund notes.
In a press release, the Rights Alliance emphasizes the emotional impact of these cases. The anti-piracy group has repeatedly highlighted that the 50-year-old man is a father who spent Christmas and New Year in prison, away from his family.
Users Aren’t Safe Either
Meanwhile, prosecutor Christian Raaholt Hahn issued a repeated warning that users of these sites are also at risk.
“Of course, I can not get into specific cases around our plans, but it is clear that our focus is not only on the perpetrators. We also focus on the users…,” the prosecutor told TV 2 Fyn.
The 50-year-old man is not the only suspected ringleader of Asgaard who was caught. The investigation identified and provisionally charged six other suspects with criminal copyright infringement. SØIK is still deliberating whether it will take these remaining ‘ringleaders’ to trial.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.