A 26-year-old man who owns an online forum website where pirated content links are shared has been ordered to pay damages totalling $17.2m (£11.2m, €15.6m) to the movie industry, music groups and Microsoft.
The landmark ruling is the culmination of a online piracy trial that has been going on since 2009.
Dimitri Mader founded Wawa-Mania, a French "warez" forum dedicated to the sharing of a wide range of pirated content, from movies to music to software, in 2006. The website now has more than two million registered users.
Mader is French but in 2011, while the trial was on, he moved to live in the Philippines with his family.
He will have to return to France as the Paris criminal court has sentenced him in absentia to a year in prison, and he has also been ordered to pay $12.8m to Hollywood film production companies and a French distributor of pornographic movies, as well as $4.4m to Microsoft and two music groups.
Millions in damages meted out to copyright holders
According to court documents seen by TorrentFreak, the highest damages were meted out to Twentieth Century Fox ($3m), Disney ($2.2m), Columbia Pictures ($1.8m), Universal ($1.9m), Paramount Pictures ($1.8m), Warner Bros ($1.4m) and Sacem ($3m), the French body that protects the rights of songwriters and composers.
Microsoft was granted $757,000 in damages, while another French music body SCPP received $584,000 and French pornographic film distributor Marc Dorcel received $75,000.
The French courts ordered Mader to shut down Wawa-Mania, but the site is still live and its servers are hosted in Moldova. Mader admitted during the trial that he earned €42,000 in revenue from advertising on his website, but he claims that the money were used to pay for the servers.
In addition to going to jail, Mader has also been fined €20,000 by the court, and he will have to pay an additional €46,000 in legal fees.
It is often difficult to prosecute individual users for having downloaded pirated content using peer-to-peer torrenting file sharing networks, so copyright holders usually target the websites that provide links to the content, such as the Pirate Bay.
In Mader's case, by founding a forum that was used exclusively to share links to places where pirated content could be downloaded, he assumed responsibility for enabling the piracy to go on.