GERMANY: In the recent decision, where the kino.to ringleader was convicted and sentenced to over 4 years in prison, the public prosecutor made the important argument that shutting down kino.to is about ensuring that consumers have access to their shows and movies from trustworthy, safe and legitimate sources. We sometimes forget that in addition to harming the creative community, mass dissemination of infringing content on the internet also has a negative impact on consumers who are concerned about their privacy and safe internet use and rightly expect to view shows and movies online through safe, legitimate outlets. The fact is, the operators of sites like kino.to value their own privacy as it is key to their “business” but they have no regard for the privacy or online security of internet users.
Kino.to was the most popular streaming portal site for German-speaking territories with up to 4 million users a day. None of the key operators were modern day ‘Robin Hoods’ who wanted to provide movies ‘free of charge’; their main objective was to make a substantial amount of money mainly through advertising. The site was incredibly lucrative for its operators: according to some reports the ringleader earned as much as 6 million Euro – obviously none of this money was reinvested back into the new production of content.
The case against the kino.to syndicate was an important milestone, which led to the conviction of all six core members of this criminal group who jointly infringed copyright on a commercial scale. But most significantly, it paves the way for an internet that works for everyone by clearly recognizing that those who illegally distribute content are not in business for the greater good. The Kino.tv business model worked for its operators who made millions from ads but not for viewers whose privacy was compromised and not for the many thousands of creators and makers whose content was made available for free, denying them the value of their hard work and of the economic incentive to keep creating and making it. Courts in other countries who have taken action against Kino.to and similar sites can take comfort in the fact that their decisions have been proportionate responses to a serious problem that affects society as a whole.