UK Court Levies $30K Fine Against Unemployed Mom In File-Sharing Case

A British woman who uploaded a PC pinball game to a file-sharing network has been ordered to pay publisher Topware Interactive £16,086 (roughly $30,000).

As reported by the BBC, Isabella Barwinska’s troubles began when the London woman uploaded a copy of Dream Pinball 3D (retail value about $30). The case was heard at London’s Patents County Court. Victorious Topware lawyer David Gore said:

The damages and costs ordered by the Court are significant and should act as a deterrent. This shows that taking direct steps against infringers is an important and effective weapon in the battle against online piracy. This is the first of many. It was always intended that there would be a lot more.

IP lawyer David Harris, who has no stake in the Topware case, told the BBC:

This is a proper Intellectual Property (IP) court that has made this judgement. The previous ones were default judgements where defendants never turned up. It’s a much more interesting case in that respect.

Becky Hogge, director of the UK’s Open Rights Group commented on the ruling:

An open court process with a full report is certainly preferable to justice of the type being mooted by the government on P2P, where activity takes place behind closed doors through industry action… In relation to the orders for release of personal data, it is important that court processes do not become rubberstamps for industry action but retain judicial safeguards and independence.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that the defendant is an unemployed Polish immigrant and mother of two from London’s downscale East End. As GamePolitics reported last month, four alleged file sharers made lesser settlements with Topware.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. oto kirlama says:

    I’m all for freedom of ttnet vitamin speech and allowing rent a car game makers to put whatever they want in games, but there’s one thing about this app that has me scratching my head.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but from araç kiralama the previous article araba kiralama on this I gathered that players can use Google maps in-game to find the other (real-life?) dealers in their area.  If this is the case, has travesti anyone considered what’s stopping someone from using this app to actually move drugs between hands for reals?

  2. GTCv Deimos says:

    And I’m not denying that it’s an excuse for breaking the law… I’m just thinking why so harsh over something that 99% of the populous doesn’t even know about?

  3. bpm195 says:

    Even though I disagree with her losing the case (and I seriously wonder if she actually fought it, or just couldn’t afford a decent lawyer), if the piece of software cost $30 and she was illegally seeding it for any decent amount of time I think it’s fair to say 1000 were downloaded. It’s still a crap ruling, but the punishments makes sense.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never downloaded a pirated game in my life, but from now on, if I see a game by Topware (and assuming I want it, which is doubtful), I think I might look into getting it for free.

  5. Squigs says:

    Most of the complaints seem to be about the amount of the fine rather than the verdict.

    In reality, she probably didn’t cost them £6000 in lost sales (the fact that they were willing to settle for so little suggests this). Even if you assume that each upload cost them the full retain value of the game, we’re assuming 400 copies uploaded, but much less than that and it would have gone to the small claims track where they wouldn’t have been able to claim legal costs.

    Civil suits are simply to put the victim back in the position they would have been in had the perpetrator not acted.

  6. Ace ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s a pinball game, you can get thousands of these things online if you had some fetish for them.
    Not worth the time and money of the courts to drag this case through them, much less is anything in that game likely worth $30.000. Not the code, not the graphical work, not the packaging…nothing.
    IP is IP…but sometimes this shit goes too far.

  7. Matthew says:

    This on toast. Can’t afford £40 for a new game? Rent it, wait a few weeks for it to come down in price, or look for it second hand.

    I wonder how many pro-piracy people get shirty when someone steals their LiveJournal icons.

  8. Freyar says:

    Here’s a question nobody has asked yet… Did the woman even KNOW that she was breaking the law?

    Cuz… if you use "videogames" and "law" in a single sentence, most people go "buh!?"

    Ignorance is not a valid reason to break the law regardless.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  9. GTCv Deimos says:

    Here’s a question nobody has asked yet… Did the woman even KNOW that she was breaking the law?

    Cuz… if you use "videogames" and "law" in a single sentence, most people go "buh!?"

  10. Toastrider says:

    When software and movie companies start targeting the pirate industries in China and SE Asia, I’ll take them seriously on their ‘hard line stance against piracy’.

    Until then, they’re just potting small game.

  11. That’s pure speculation at best.  Even if you’re really broke, it’s not hard to find a way to put together a few hundred dollars quickly if you have to.  Trust me, I’ve been in such a position before.  Like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with the treatment she got from the UK courts of TopWare but we’re talking about someone who illegally posted software online for people to download.  Sorry but you don’t get to do that.  That there are better uses for the court’s time doesn’t excuse the fact that she broke the law.

  12. Freyar says:

    If she didn’t want to pay the fine, nobody was forcing her at gunpoint to illegally upload this game – crappy or not – to a torrent site.

    It’s more of a case of disproportionate fines. I see a bigger problem with the fact that the courts decided to act as a punishment for a civil case, rather than a criminal case. Quite simply, she should be fined, no problem with that, but what is the actual DAMAGE to having had that game uploaded? Certainly not 6,000 GBP.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Don’t want piracy, don’t sell this stuff for so much money.  Simple as that.  Volume of sales could probably more than make up for lost revenue.

  14. cullarn says:

    to be honest im not defending her per se im questioning the judgement of the courts for putting a fine on someone who obviously cannot pay it (they could treated like any other theft and charged her appropiately to her crime)

  15. Klokwurk ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    How bizarre to see people defending her.

    If she didn’t want to pay the fine, nobody was forcing her at gunpoint to illegally upload this game – crappy or not – to a torrent site.

    If you want a game, buy it. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. If you want it but don’t want to pay for it, tough.

  16. Black Dragon says:

    Wow. $30,000 huh?

    All that money, all this hassle, all this off-point arguing about how much piracy really does to the industry…

    Kind of makes paying thirty stupid dollars for your entertainment seem like a good idea, doesn’t it?

    Buy your games, people. It’s not hard.

  17. sortableturnip says:

    She prob didn’t have the 300 pounds to pay, so they took her to court and won 16,000…and she still can’t pay…..imagine that one…

  18. Haggard says:

    As I posted in response to the first comment, she had a choice, pay an ‘on the spot’ settlement of £300 or go to court and probably lose a hell of a lot more. She chose the latter.

  19. Sai says:

    I understand industries and companies need to protect their properties too, but they always seem to nail the "wrong" people. It’s not like she was the head of a large software pirating ring in Hong Kong or something.

    Also how many people would have downloaded it? Like TWO? Just charge her 60 bucks.

  20. DarkSaber says:

    Looks like a case of going for a soft target really.


    But seriously, who exactly are this company, what other games have they done?


    And finally, 6k fine and 10k costs? Damn, their lawyers are making more through this one case than the game is likely to at all!

  21. Father Time says:

    "This shows that taking direct steps against infringers is an important and effective weapon in the battle against online piracy. "

    How? This doesn’t prove ANYTHING. This isn’t results or data this is just you suing for a ludicrous amount of money. Oh and the deterrence thing probably won’t work either.

  22. Icehawk says:

    Virtual Pinball is such a huge market isn’t it?   I mean to be able to win a case and claim (approx) $8500 USD in damages for lost business.   Was the lady wrong?  Probably to defiantly.   But to slap her with a fine that she cannot pay in 10 years (disregarding her children and thier care) does not seem… practical or realistic.   Oh well I am the sure there are some having orgasms over this bull.   And they wonder what happened to common scene.

  23. Freyar says:

    "Stop! Stop! Executioner, hold your axe!"
    "Now you tell your men to let go of my buddy or I’ve just found myself a new pincushion.."
    "Let go of my budd– I mean.. Let go of the prisoner!"

    (I like that movie.. >>)


    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  24. SetoChaos says:

    Well, I know who not to buy games from now. This is pathetic in my opinion, she was umemployed, not only that but the fact that she is a Mum implies that she has kids. What are they going to do when their Mum can’t pay? Get adopted. Damn, Topware Interactive is pure evil.

  25. Jab49 says:

    Clearly the 30 k can be made via selling her into some sort of slavery or sexual servant position at 3$ an hour for 10 000 hours. If she’s unattractive they could also trying selling her children for physical labour/food

  26. Anonymous says:

    LJ is for chumps, chodes, and chavs. Us hardcore internet terrorist gangster gypsies just bitch anonymously on other people’s boards.

  27. SetoChaos says:

    Well actually, under UK Copyright law if you didn’t know that you were breaking the law then you don’t get punished for it.


  28. Scoops ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I suspect there is no price point at which some pirates will change their minds.

    I used to be in the trade with my own high street store back in the 8-bit days.  At the time I was selling Spectrum and C64 games for £1.99-£9.99 (Amiga and ST games were just beginning to appear at £24.99) – having pirated copies being handed around the local school playground didn’t do much to help put dinner on the table.


  29. Freyar says:

    To be fair, Topware did do Xpand Rally, didn’t they..? That was actually a really good rally title, so the games aren’t horrible, just. this one.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  30. Haggard says:

    Activision are far worse than EA these days. You gonna pick up Guitar Hero: Nickleback or Call of Duty 12?

  31. Father Time says:

    Thank god for used games and Ebay although for those to work somebody had to buy the game new.

  32. Freyar says:

    Okay, even still.. six-thousand for the actual damages… I doubt she allowed others to copy the game 375 times (at the listed value converted back to GBP), or more accurately 750 times at it’s current 8 GBP value. The fine is disproportionate.

    My car gets broken into, or something stolen from me, I don’t get to claim that my window on my car is replaced, plus some to ‘punish’ the person responsible. It is replaced at their cost and done with. Even still, if Topware were to go after the uploader (in this case, they did), and the downloader, they’d get the damages twice in the first place.

    Does anyone else see where I’m going with this? Topware should not be profitting off of the 6,000 GBP fine at all.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  33. Overcast says:

    No, but they will likely loose that much money on bad publicity on this whole thing.

    Topware, EA – the list of companies I refuse to buy from now is ever growing. I do IN FACT pay for the games I play. Long ago, I found that the hassles of downloading ‘cracked’ games was something I just didn’t have time for.

    I was really tempted to check out Warhammer – but with it being an EA game… ummm, ehhh.. probably not.

  34. Drazgal ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If you read the article you’d see that £6k was awarded for actual damages and the remaining £10k was for costs incured by the law suite.

  35. Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You mean Canada?  because with their more laxed rules, I could see how that would work out.

  36. SS says:

    what about her kids?  ARe they gonna be put for adoption or sold to a sweathouse in China by Topware to pay the fine? 

  37. chadachada(123) says:

    But saying that would be assuming that the downloaders would’ve bought the game had they not downloaded it. If I download music off of limewire, or if the music isn’t on limewire, either way I’m not spending money on the songs, so what’s it matter? If I get it for free, that’s cool, but if I have to pay for it I’m just not going to take it. The makers aren’t losing or gaining any money either way, so what is the damage?

    er…sorry if my post doesn’t make much sense, I’m having trouble expressing this in words.

  38. JustChris says:

    It would be more fair to fine for the number of illegal downloads that resulted from her uploading the game. 300 pounds seems right, if there were 20 downloads of the game. But AFAIK, if no one even downloaded this pile of a game, there would be no damage. It would be like leaving a burned copy of a DVD movie on the street, but without anyone taking it.

  39. SS says:

    This is probably the only profit the bastards made from this game.  Nice approach to make money, make a shitty game that won’t sell and then sue people who pirate it and profit from it.

    It’s not as if anybody would buy it anyway.

  40. Freyar says:

    No, no.. I believe that she should have been found guilty if (according to UK law) that uploading a game to a sharing network is illegal. What I do NOT agree with is Topware’s profiteering from this ruling.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  41. jonwanker says:

    The thing is, the RIAA uses this tactic all the time. They sue you, then offer to settle for an outrageous amount less than what the potential legal fees might amount for. Most people would — as you say — take the easier route and just settle out of court, essentially admitting guilt, because it would be too much of a hassle otherwise. Thus, they can get away with suing most anybody randomly. It’s disgusting and a perversion of the legal system as well as the spirit in which IP laws were written.

    This ruling is absurd. This woman is not a pirate, and ‘Dream Pinball 3D’ can barely be called a ‘game’. The real crime is that this ‘game’ is priced at $30. If Topware didn’t sell their shitty game for such a ridiculous price, maybe they’d see a better return and wouldn’t have to sue people. Hell, I’m surprised that anyone bothered to download the damn thing at all.


  42. Overcast says:

    If they do collect – it will likely double their profits on the game. Perhaps even more than double….

  43. sortableturnip says:

    $30k is prob what it cost to make the damn pinball game…I mean it’s not like they’re re-inventing the wheel here….IT’S PINBALL FOR PETE’S SAKE!!!!!

  44. Haggard says:

    You can tell from the Mail’s headline they didn’t bother to read the story either. She wasn’t fined for downloading it, she was fined for seeding it.

  45. Haggard says:

    What is being missed by a lot of the blogs picking up this story is that she was offered a £300 out of court settlement in the original letter. She refused, was taken to court and lost the £16,000.

    I don’t think she deserved the £16k fine but she certainly wasn’t smart in refusing to settle for the £300 initial fine.

  46. Freyar says:

    I thought these fines were meant specifically as reperations for damages, not intended as a ‘You are bad, we’re going to suck up your finances now.’


    Meh, even still, the inflated fines involving this kind of thing is pure bull****.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  47. Freyar says:

    That’s my whole problem with it. Topware most definately did not LOSE that much money from her ‘making available’. So why are they getting paid more than the amount ‘lost’?

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  48. Generic Enemy Number 12 says:

    They are going to get $30K from an unemployed woman for a pinball game nobody has ever heard about…

    To me this is just one big advertisement for the game, and they still get money off of it.

  49. SS says:

    Greedy Bastards!  A 30K fine for just that?  using that logic Ryan Brant should pay a billion dollars.  But no, white collar criminals that steal millions are gonna be treated differently then unemployed mothers. 

  50. King of Fiji ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    With the assumption that she is unemployed not for the reason of being a lazy bum, I feel sorry for the lady.

    I understand companies not wanting their stuff uploaded on the internet for free but at the same time this is a great PR stunt for your company.



  51. Anonymous says:

    Yup, picking on Polish Immigrants without any money is pretty much typical for Industry ‘defence’ groups these days.

Comments are closed.