Founded in 2006 by Dimitri Mader, Wawa-Mania grew into a million member strong ‘warez’ forum specializing in a broad range of ‘pirate’ content. But just three years later things were already starting to go bad.
In 2009, the Frenchman was detained by the authorities after the Association Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) identified more than 3,600 films being made available via the platform without permission. In the meantime the site continued, generating income from advertising and accepting donations via PayPal.
The case dragged on for years but reached its goal in 2015. Mader was found guilty, sentenced to a year in prison, and hit with a 20,000 euro fine. But by this time the Frenchman was long gone and living with his family in the Philippines. He didn’t even attend the hearing – but things weren’t over yet.
With Mader’s guilt established, the court had to determine the level of damages payable to the plaintiffs, which included Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount, Tristar, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. The amount eventually arrived at by the court was around $15m.
“I won’t think about the penalty, it is just beyond any common sense,” Mader told TF at the time.
“I will surely not [pay anything] and even if a new court makes the penalty lower, it won’t change anything. Five million, 15 million or 30 million. What’s the difference after all?”
Being outside the country with a jail sentence and huge fines hanging over his head was a big problem for Mader, who told us that returning home after years outside the country would be a complicated affair. But things still weren’t over.
In a ruling handed down last month and just made public, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the lower court, affirming that Mader owes the plaintiffs 13 million euros ($14.85m).
According to a report from Numerama, the court said that “the likely harm [to rightsholders] must be assessed in light of the extent of visitors to this site [at the time of the investigation], the number of creative works involved, and the ‘views’ duly established.”
The court determined that every visit to the site wouldn’t necessarily have resulted in an illegal download, but it still placed a value of two euros on every work believed to have been downloaded by users.
Mader did not attend the appeal and was not represented, so things were never likely to go his way. His current whereabouts are not clear, but it seems likely that he remains in the Philippines with his family.
Correspondence sent by TF to his encrypted email account bounced. Only time will tell whether Hollywood will have equal difficulty contacting him.
The full decision can be found here.