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Up to thirty thousand German households told to pay up for watching porn

redtubeBetween twenty and thirty thousand households in Germany have had demands for €250 dropped through their letter boxes. The demands, which are likely to generate some awkward family conversations, relate to watching copyrighted movies streamed from the online pornography web site RedTube, which works much like YouTube, except features much racier content.

Specifically, the demands relate to a number of films including Dream Trip, Hot Stories, Amanda’s Secrets, Miriam’s Adventures and Glamour Showgirls whose copyright is owned by Swiss media company The Archive AG, and were sent by  German law firm U&C who are representing them.

In the past, individuals have been targeted for downloading copyrighted porn films using BitTorrent and similar methods, but this is the first time that copyright trolls have attempted to extort money simply for streaming content, and if U&C succeeds it could set a worrying precedent.

‘Redtube was more like a test balloon,’ Thomas Urmann of U&C told Welt am Sonntag newspaper, arguing that although streaming has so far evaded copyright law because it is deemed that no copy of an original work is created when streaming, a copy is in fact temporarily created in the memory of the computer while buffering, and therefore anyone who streams copyrighted material is guilty of piracy.

Fortunately for those accused, the general legal opinion seems to be that Archive AG and U&C don’t have leg to stand on. Alex Taylor of RedTube described the action as blackmail and a violation of privacy, ‘RedTube stands by its firm opinion that these letters are completely unfounded and that they violate the rights of those who received it in a very serious manner,’ while copyright legal expert Christian Solmecke told the Guardian that there ‘was not only “no legal basis” for the fines, but that it was possible that the law firm behind the letters may have broken the law: “It is hard to imagine how the IP addresses of the users could have been obtained on a legal basis.”’

This brings us to the interesting question of how U&C did obtain the identities of the accused. No-one is quite sure, but German newspaper Die Welt’s claim that U&C obtained a court order from the Cologne Regional Court (probably issued under the misconception that RedTube was some kind of P2P piracy website), is the most likely explanation, although RedTube vigorously denies handing over any records.

‘RedTube pursues stringent privacy requirements and maintains the highest industry standards of privacy protection to secure not only their assets and properties, but to provide comprehensive protection of their customers’ data when visiting a RedTube-owned site.’

One thing for sure is that users of VPN users are unlikely to number among the victims, as RedTube (or any other attack method) would have had no way of identifying the real IP address of VPN users, and therefore associating  a RedTube user with a real-life individual or address.


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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