Summary:

German content owners have been busy pursuing alleged infringers: Local ISPs have to hand out around 300,000 names and addresses of file sharers caught in the act every month, according to data from a German industry association. Will we see similar numbers in the U.S. soon?

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German ISPs are handing out data on about 300,000 subscribers per month to content owners, according to new data from the country’s Internet industry association ECO. The numbers show that the chances of getting caught for illegal file sharing have increased, the association said in a press release.

ECO published the numbers to make the case against mandates that would force ISPs to block access to torrent sites and other infringing services. European Union politicians have been discussing such measures in recent months, and rights holders have made inroads into a number of European countries with lawsuits against ISPs aimed at forcing them to block access to file sharing sites.

Rights holders have long pursued countless German file sharers with legal means, often going after tens of thousands of users at a time. Initially, this was done through ordinary lawsuits, but revisions to local copyright law now make it possible to simply get court approval for requests to ISPs to unveil a subscriber’s identity. Content owners then send threatening letters to alleged infringers, asking them to pay anywhere between €300 to €1200 ($430 to $1720 USD) per unlawfully-shared file.

Critics have long argued that legal measures like these have become a cash cow for content owners. Activists estimated earlier this year that rights holders could have made as much as €165 million in 2010 through these lawsuits. ECO board member Oliver Süme agreed that some of these cash demands are excessive. “A stern warning letter would be enough in most cases,” he was quoted in the press release, adding: “You don’t always have to demand several hundred Euros.”

U.S. file sharers increasingly find themselves targeted by similar lawsuits. Porn studios have sued tens of thousands of BitTorrent users in recent months, and the producers of the indie movie The Hurt Locker sued close to 25,000 file sharers last week. However, rights holders have had mixed success with these measures, and a number of courts have thrown out lawsuits for a variety of procedural reasons.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Sapiano.

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