But it cost the film industry tens of millions of pounds in lost revenue, and ultimately huge losses to the Inland Revenue, the prosecution alleged.
Over two years the site, run by the former DJ and BT employee’s firm Scopelight, turned over £1million with a profit of £250,000, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
In July 2008 surfthechannel.com was listed 514 in an index of most popular websites, Mr Alibhai said, which at the time made it more popular than social network Facebook.
He added that the losses the site caused to the film industry were impossible to calculate.
It was revealed that surfthechannel.com allowed access to more than 5,600 films and TV shows. Experts have estimated the damages to be between £52million and £198million, depending on how lost sales are estimated.
‘Once one reaches figures of tens of millions of pounds of loss it becomes irrelevant what the figure is,’ Mr Alibhai said. ‘The scale of loss was immense and it does run to tens of millions of pounds.
‘Due to the number of films available and the frequency they were downloaded the scale of loss is considerable.
‘And the losses should not just be seen as a loss to moguls in Hollywood but to hundreds of people in the industry.’
Judge Evans said the losses would have also stretched beyond the film and music industry.
He said: ‘The loss is considerable but also there is here the loss of tax revenue because if the industry was generating this kind of revenue then it would have been shared with a net benefit to the taxpayer.’