The popular torrenting news website TorrentFreak recently reported on an unusual case involving the arrest of the world’s oldest pirate. The woman in question, well past her prime, has been busted for using BitTorrent and other similar file sharing software to distribute copyrighted works. Though the case is still under investigation, it calls attention to the discrepancy between current copyright laws and the practices of millions of Internet users worldwide. In today’s post, we bring you an overview of the woman’s case, as well as several other examples in which lawmakers targeted extremely young or significantly old copyright ‘criminals’.
The curious case of the Torrenting Granny
At 63 years old, a Romanian woman from the northwestern city of Cluj-Napoca has become one of the country’s first ‘pirates’ placed under criminal investigation for file sharing. Under Romanian law, this refers to “providing the audience with products that bear connected rights, so that she, in turn, could download files from other network users, without the authorization of the rights holders.” The local police learned that, through the use of various software, the Cluj-Napoca woman placed ‘enormous amounts’ of materials that lawmakers qualify as “works or products bearing connected rights or sui generis rights from database manufacturers, or copies thereof, irrespective of medium.”
In plain English, this old lady was sharing a lot of files directly from her computer. Sources with the Cluj County police department have stated that the woman was found to have infringed copyright through nearly all forms of media – from music and movies to photos and other types of materials. As of the writing of this article, the woman has been identified and placed under criminal investigation (Romanian language source). Subsequently, the local authorities began a series of inquiries and hearings that led to the decision to keep her under criminal investigation for an undetermined amount of time.
The same sources have also stated that the woman obtained a profit from torrenting. As of yet, it remains unclear what amount of the copyright infringing material was later sold for a profit. The local police has explained that the total value of the liabilities will be determined by the holders of the infringed rights in this case. The criminal investigation against the elderly woman will continue, under the provisions of Romanian Law 8/1996, which regards authors’ rights and connected rights. By all accounts, this latest action is part of the Romanian authorities concerted effort to crack down on tax evasion and copyright infringement.
Meanwhile, Romania continues to operate several hugely successful torrent sites and doesn’t have much of a history in chastising their users. As a source told TorrentFreak, this case was likely pursued by the police not because the lawmakers decided to ‘make things right’ in terms of copyright law enforcement. It is far more probable that they eventually gave in to pressures from copyright holding companies.
A BitTorrent CounterCulture Superstar in the Making?
Super Pirate Grandma is the nickname the elderly Romanian woman in question has received online. Initial reports of the arrest included poignant observations regarding the continuing prevalence of torrenting programs, even as legal media services like Spotify and Netflix continue to become ever more popular. Nowadays, BitTorrent users in the western world are increasingly likely to receive warning letters from copyright trolls; the average Internet user breaks several hundreds of laws every day, by doing things as innocent as sharing a music video on Facebook or clicking ‘Reply’ to an email. These actions could one day warrant an arrest, much like the case of the Romanian woman came to this conclusion.
This case is not the first one of its kind and it is definitely not the last one either. In 2011, a 58 year-old Scottish grandmother was arrested and received a three years’ probation sentence for online file sharing and torrenting. Conversely, the world’s youngest ‘pirate’ is a 9 year-old girl, whose home was raided by police and who eventually had her Winnie the Pooh laptop seized for alleged copyright infringing activities.