Software pirate has to make anti-piracy video go viral, or pay massive fines
Microsoft alone valued damages at roughly $300,000
A software pirate has found an odd escape hatch in his quest to avoid paying huge damages to companies claiming he stole their products: He must make an anti-piracy YouTube video go viral.
The 30-year-old man from the Czech Republic pirated Microsoft's Windows 7 and 8 operating systems and distributed media and software on filesharing sites, according to the BBC.
Known only as Jakub F, he was convicted and given a three year suspended sentence by Czech courts, where the companies also claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial damages.
The firms seeking damages include HBO Europe, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, and Microsoft, which alone estimated damages of around $300,000.
In his YouTube video, Jakub claims that at his current salary, it would take him a lifetime to pay off such a sum, so the companies offered him an out-of-court solution.
The Business Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft, and the other companies would accept only a fraction of the money they were seeking in exchange for the man starring in his own anti-piracy video.
The over-the-top video, styled like a foreboding after-school special complete with dramatic soundtrack is, according to the opening credit, "based on real events." It begins with a forlorn Jakub sitting in a dark interrogation room as he lays out his woeful tale of illicit file-sharing, which ends with him being ensnared in the piracy investigators' net, interrogated by police and eventually prosecuted for his crimes.
"Up until a few hours ago, I was on the same side of the monitor as you," Jakub begins. "You have no idea how easy it is to get here — here where the virtual world of 1s and 0s becomes all too real."
'It began with sharing, and it can end with sharing'
He then lays out how he got caught up in an endless loop of "Ctrl C Ctrl V" (keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste), sharing tens of gigabytes of data on various forums for eight years — until "it happened." He began getting warning notices about copyright infringement and, eventually, police tracked him down at work.
Then came the warrants, the interrogations, the lawyers, the courtrooms and "paper and more paper," an exasperated Jakub says over images of an elderly man in a suit going over piles of paperwork with a confused and scared looking Jakub.
"There was no end to it. Everything revolved around the damage I caused and which I would have to pay back," Jakub says in the video.
He then implores viewers to help him get to 200,000 vies by sharing his story — literally.
"It began with sharing, and it can end with sharing," Jakub dramatically concludes.
Starring in the film isn't enough however – it has to be popular, too. Digital Spy wrote that he has just two months from the video's publication to reach 200,000 views.
A spokesman for the Business Software Alliance told the BBC that the time limit was to guarantee Jakub would work hard to distribute the video.
They've given him some help, though.
According to the BBC, the alliance opened a dedicated website called My Piracy for Jakub to share his story.
"I thought I was not doing anything wrong," he's quoted as saying on the website in Czech. "I was convinced that I was too small a fish to be grabbed. Well, finally they got me."
Regardless of the outcome, Jakub will still be serving his three year sentence. He'll just be able to avoid paying the total of the damages claimed.
As of press time, his video has more than 185,000 views – just on the precipice of sparing him a massive fine.