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Thousands of Germans Threatened With €250 Fines For Streaming Porn 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-price dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Thousands of German users that have used a porn website to stream shows have received threatening letters from a local law firm demanding €250 ($344) per certain watched clips, Chip.de reports. Apparently, a Swiss-based firm that owns the content hosted by porn site Redtube has tasked a law firm with collecting fines for each of its shows that was streamed online in the region. The law firm has apparently received a go ahead from a local court, and as many as ten thousand warnings may have been set to users, for porn shows watched in August."
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Thousands of Germans Threatened With €250 Fines For Streaming Porn

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  • They're serious? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:37AM (#45668237)

    I'm lost here, isn't the company behind this 'Redtube' website legally responsible for copyright infringement, and all resultant penalties, instead of the individual viewers?

  • by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:00AM (#45668303)

    I don't know about Germany, but it some european countries, just downloading something isn't illegal.

    It isn't illegal in Germany as well. Pretty much all lawyers except the ones sending the letters
    think those letters to be a hilarious. They all advise to ignore the letters and wait to be taken to
    court (which almost certainly will never happen).
    Sadly, it will probably scare enough people into paying to nonetheless be profitable.

    Personally, I'm wondering how this law firm got the contact addresses.

    Well-informed speculation is that they used ad tracking on redtube to get IP addresses (external
    ad servers see the request IP and the referer string...).

    Then they tricked the courts into assuming distribution on behalf of said IP to get a court order for
    the client's identity. I'm not exaggerating: The court filings very carefully avoid the word "streaming"
    and imply downloading and P2P distribution without actually saying so.

    Only about two thirds of the courts actually fell for it, but each one was good for thousands of identities.

  • Re:Oh Germany (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:10AM (#45668343)

    And the difference between that and anyone else's law is what precisely?

    Let me help you there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abmahnung [wikipedia.org]

    The difference has to do with standing, i.e. who can actually bring a lawsuit. This is a misfeature specific to German law, rooted in a culture of conformity and Obrigkeitshörigkeit: if you stick out, lots of bystanders make it their business to force you to conform, and the law encourages and reflects that culture.

    (Argumentativeness despite ignorance, and irrational belief in one's national superiority, are other misfeatures of German culture, so you will doubtlessly respond with a litany about how (1) this isn't true despite the evidence, or (2) how other countries are worse than Germany, or (3) how beneficial all of this is and how stupid foreigners are for not seeing that. Take your pick and save us both some time and respond just with a number.)

  • Re:Oh Germany (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sique (173459) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:21AM (#45668377) Homepage
    Obrigkeitshörigkeit has nothing to do with this, as it is not the Obrigkeit sending the letter, it's your peers. Conformity yes, I agree.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:14AM (#45668533)

    According to a report on heise and some discussions by people who received those:Their browsers were made to connect to certain reddube.com (not rettube, mind you) urls by a skimmed traffic site. So Site A wants to earn some money from their site and Service X says: "Add a link to this image from us to your website, you don,t even have to place it somewhere visible!". Site A does so and whenever a user visits the site, the browser sends a request to servers from Service X which redirect then to Site B, which might need some traffic and wants to get it in shady ways. So the users didn't have to visit redtube at all and some guy even looked into his looks and went: "I visited redtube, but not that video. I was redirected to that after visiting another site!", which shows that its not the "uh, i don't watch porn, no, no..."-reflex speaking.
    Also, there are several lawsuits against this swiss based guys on the way. What they're doing is fraud. Fraud's not legal, you know? Not even in germany, and not even when porn is involved...

  • by garry_g (106621) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:19AM (#45668545)

    That's another point of criticism - while P2P or download is a deliberate action, leading to local storage of files, streaming videos from a free site that is not by definition a pirate site makes it near impossible for users to know they are breaking copyright laws ...
    Which is why the letters to the court left out the word "streaming" - for streaming, no court order would have been issued (most likely, anyway). Which, in turn, should get the lawyer knowingly misleading the court disbarred or at least fined ...

  • Re:Oh Dear. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meerling (1487879) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:27AM (#45668571)
    I remember seeing an article a while ago talking about distribution of media and technologies. Porn and Redtube specifically were mentioned. Apparently sites like Redtube are used by the media copyright owners to upload clips of their products for publicity. It's kind of like a movies trailers site for porn. So I have to wonder if this troll even has the proper authority to make such claims of redress, and if the clips they're targeting (if specified) were uploaded by the owners or not.

    I don't know if Redtube really is a clip site, or it it's something more. I pretty much assume that porn sites are loaded with malware, but who knows.

    By the way, as I've seen it mentioned that the troll lied to the judge and told them it was a p2p site, I wouldn't put any underhanded or illegal thing outside the realm of what they'd do.
  • Re:Oh Germany (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garry_g (106621) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:30AM (#45668581)

    Those letters, "Abmahnung", are different as they have been used for many years, especially ever since computers got popular ... some of the most famous cases initially came to light when one lawyer from Munich, Günter Freiherr von Gravenreuth, sent those letters to hundreds or thousands of (mostly) school children for them swapping home computer games ... what made it bad was that it turned out to be some sort of entrapment in many cases ... i.e., the infamous "Tanja" or other cover identities were used to trick children into sending him pirated software, then used that to threaten the kids with suing, which could be avoided by paying the sums listed in the "Abmahnung". While at that time there were quite a few cases, it was nowhere close to what is going on nowadays ... those letters have become an easy income for some German lawyers, with little work and nice 4-digit income per letter ... often, they are also less attackable than in this case, where multiple factual and technical mistakes were made ..

  • Re:Bahahahahaha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:35AM (#45668593) Homepage

    That *is* their business model.
    I read up on this yesterday (German Language) [spiegel.de] and the situation is more complicated than it seems.
    The providers affected are all over Germany, so various local courts were involved. The one in Köln really screwed things up: what the people are supposed to have done is Downloaded the file(s), what they were accused of was Sharing them and Köln went along with this. The difference is that the provider does not have to give out addresses on Downloads but they do if Sharing is involved. The actual "Abmahnung" letters which went out said nothing about Sharing at all. The Law Firm based their claim on the Downloads being in Cache so they were available for others. To make things worse, the largest provider in Germany (T-Online) is based in Köln. Other courts rejected that argument, others asked questions and the Lawyers withdrew their request.

    I have a related problem at the moment - a couple of years ago someone accused me of sharing some other porno film, again T-Online was involved. My wlan is wpa2 with a 63-byte random, generated mixed upper/lower string and it accepts only one Mac address, I have checked both PCs which were on at the time for Trojans / Virii with a bootable scanner and there was nothing. Under German law there is no redress - if they claim it then I must have done it. I'm fighting this one out at the moment.

    For me this is a reason not to use T-Online. My main account is now somewhere else but I *need* Internet for when I work at home and two independent providers (Cable and DSL) made sense back when the Cable provider was unreliable. I think I'm going to have to dump T-Online which means dumping Telekom for my phone.

  • Re:Oh Dear. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crabel (1862874) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:41AM (#45668613)
    Not so fast. First of all, the lawyers "cheated". They avoided the term "streaming" in their applications to court and made it look like a typical filesharing case. The courts granted most of their applications because of "unbefugtem öffentlichen Zugänglichmachen über eine sogenannte Tauschbörse" that means "unauthorized sharing of files through a file sharing network". German internet law blogger Thomas Stadler explains in his blog, why their applications are invalid (for various reasons). German link: http://www.internet-law.de/2013/12/warum-die-streaming-abmahnungen-der-rechtsanwaelte-uc-unwirksam-sind.html [internet-law.de]

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