German court rules that domain registrar is liable for H33T infringement

german justiceWe have recently featured some stories where courts have shown a surprisingly intelligent attitude to the subject of filesharing. Unfortunately the latest news out of Germany is less encouraging, as the Regional Court of Saarbrücken has found that domain registrar Key-Systems is liable for infringement carried out on popular BitTorrent tracker site H33T.

This is the first time that a domain registrar has been found liable in this way for the behavior of a domain that it has registered, if it is ‘obvious’ that a site is breaking copyright laws (as H33T is).

The German Federal Court has previously found that DENIC, Germany’s central registry for domain names, could not in general be held responsible for the actions of its customers, but in this case the fact that Universal Studios had reported infringement of the move ‘Blurred Lines’ to Key-Systems yet the film remained available, together with allegations that H33T shadily disguised the true owner of the domain name owner using a dummy Seychelles company, meant the court felt the Key-Systems should have either shut down the domain name (which it didn’t do), or else become liable itself.

Dr. Florian Drücke of the Federal Music Industry Association (BVMI), an organization that is very vocal in support for tough anti-piracy measures, expressed satisfaction,

With the current judgment, the Regional Court of Saarbrücken has for the first time clarified the responsibility of a registrar in respect of copyright infringements carried out via a domain registered by him. For rights holders this offers a new protection option to take action against portals with illegal offers on the net, that hide their identities using front companies registered abroad. If the registrar is informed about a clear violation of the law, it must examine the specific offer immediately and lock the domain. This is another important decision, which shows that the question of the responsibilities of all participants on the Internet must always be re-examined.

With Key-Systems now facing a €250,000 (US$340,000) fine, its lawyer Volker Greimann of course took a rather different view on the situation,

Let’s just say that this was not the final word in the matter. We are currently reviewing the judgment and our options for having this overturned in the next instance. This judgment makes no legal sense and is full of errors. If this judgment stands, it will have dire consequences for the kind of services German registrars can provide.’

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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