Czech software pirate escapes massive fine by making his apology video go viral

The 10 most influential hashtags of the decade
In 2010, no one knew what hashtags were. By the end of the decade, they were changing the world.

See all Editor's Picks

In 1997, rapper The Notorious B.I.G. persuasively argued that “mo’ money” often equaled “mo’ problems.” As a Czech man facing charges of software piracy recently discovered, “mo’ YouTube views” can mean “fewer problems.”

A Czech citizen identified only as “Jakub F.” became the first person in his country to be convicted for online piracy in September. He received a three-year suspended sentence. But he also struck an unusual out-of-court settlement with a coalition composed of the companies whose software he stole. In exchange for not being sued, Jakub F. had to make a video slamming online piracy entitled “The Story of My Piracy.”

But the terms of the settlement also required Jakub F.’s video to go viral. Otherwise, he would be forced to pay a massive fine.

The approximately two-minute video, uploaded to YouTube on Sunday, needed at least 200,000 views. It attracted more than 400,000 views in a matter of days.

“I had to [post the video] because for eight years I spread pirated software and then they caught me,” Jakub F. said in a translation provided by TorrentFreak. “I thought that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I thought that it didn’t hurt the big companies. I didn’t even do it for the money; I did it for fun.

“I felt in the warez community that I meant something,” he continued. “I was convinced that I was too small a fish for someone to get to me. But eventually, they got me. Even for me, the investigators came to work.”

Jakob F. also set up a website just to share the video.

The Prague Daily Monitor reports that Jakub F. was an active participant on online forums where users traded copyrighted software, such as versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

The coalition of firms that sued the Czech man—led by the industry industry group BSA–The Software Alliance and including companies like MicrosoftSony, and Fox—looked for a non-monetary way for Jakub F. to pay restitution because they understood that he was unable to pay the otherwise hefty fine.

The firms estimated that his pirating of programs like Microsoft Office cost Microsoft alone approximately 5.7 million Czech crowns, the equivalent of just over $220,000.

A BSA spokesperson told The Telegraph that requiring a certain threshold of views was the group’s way of ensuring that Jakub F. shared the clip as widely as possible.

“Only came here to support a pirate,” reads the top comment on the video. “Have a free view on me.”

H/T BBC | Screengrab via MojePiratstvi.cz/YouTube

Aaron Sankin

Aaron Sankin

Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.