French Man Fined $46K for Illegal Downloading

VANNES, France — Receiving a clear message that illegal file-sharing won't be tolerated, a man in France has been hit with a $46,000 fine (33,000 in euros) and a two-month suspended jail sentence.

According to TorrentFreak, the unnamed 55-year-old, retired IT expert had downloaded 12,591 music tracks, 426 movies and 16 full TV series.

In 2006, police had been searching the man's home in an unrelated fraud case and found the media collection, which included pirated software as well.

French news accounts report that during an April hearing, the man argued that the collection, culled from various peer-to-peer sharing sites, was for private use only and he thought it all to be legal — a valid defense in some nations, but not France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing for more stringent anti-piracy laws.

The man also claimed some of the files had been downloaded by his children, and his lawyer said in a statement, "There is stuff like this on all kids’ computers right now."

Attorneys representing 19 plaintiffs — including the National Federation of Film Distributors, Sony, Paramount, Sacem and SCPP — called for between 1 and 2 euros in compensation for each illegal mp3 and between 7 and 12.5 euros for each movie.

The total fine is small compared to the recent fine levied on American Jammie Thomas, in which a jury awarded $1.92 million to the Recording Industry Association of America for her illegal downloading and uploading.