New precedent set as pirate is sentenced

  • 2001-08-02
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Tallinn City Court recently sentenced a video pirate to a 10-month suspended sentence, setting an important precedent in Estonia for the thievery of intellectual property.

The court handed the sentence to Andrei Artyomenko for trading in pirated copies of videotapes and violating copyright laws on June 18. The sentence will be imposed if he is arrested again within a year.

According to Ilmar Harg, director of the Estonian Copyright Protection Organization, the court has previously only issued fines for selling pirated products.

"The judge has opened up the way for making intellectual property thieves think twice before they commit their crime," said Harg.

Tallinn's economic police spotted Artyomenko renting out pirated video cassettes on the premises of the OU Ilagel general store in Tallinn from Jan. 1 to Aug. 29 last year.

Registered in 1996, the company has a license for the sale of general and civilian construction work and consumer goods.

Neither Artyomenko nor representatives of OU Ilagel were available for comment.

Harg said the property rights of Disney, Universal, Warner and other companies were violated. Though Artyomenko had a relatively small number of pirated videos - up to 100 cassettes, according to police - convicting him is a question of principle and sets an example to show such crimes are serious, said Harg.

Harg also told The Baltic Times that criminal procedures related to intellectual property protection appeared in Estonia only two years ago, and there are no clear statistics on how many cases have been registered.

"The stats will be unavailable until the court manages to get a normal, up-to-date file storage (system). They are still using a perforated card system," said Harg.

The Estonian Copyright Protection Organization is a non-commercial institution that uncovers intellectual rights violations alongside local police and record and film companies, and currently employs only four people.

Harg said there are several ways to discover a violation, including an occasional report from distribution companies or through their own investigations. The Copyright Protection Organization then hands the cases over to the economic police.