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Summary:

The Cologne district court seems to have realised it messed up when it allowed a law firm to send thousands of cash-demanding letters to users of the porn platform RedTube.

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Earlier this month it emerged that a German law firm had been sending thousands of threatening letters to people it accused of watching streaming video on the porn platform RedTube, demanding that these people pay up to €250 ($344) per clip on the basis of copyright infringement. Well, for now, Germans can happily watch free streaming video again — porn included — without worrying they’re breaking the law.

On Friday, the Cologne district court, which originally allowed law firm Urmann + Collegen (U+C) to send out the letters on behalf of Swiss rights-holder firm The Archive, said it had changed its mind following numerous complaints. Those complaints appear to have come from people pointing out that watching a stream of copyrighted content isn’t the same as downloading it – and also asking how precisely The Archive and U+C obtained their targets’ IP addresses in order to identify them and send letters to them.

Noting that the law around streaming copyrighted content was in fact far from clear, the court granted RedTube an injunction that forces U+C to stop sending the letters. It said it would issue a final decision on the more than 50 complaints it had received, in January at the earliest.

Observers had noted from the outset that it looked like the court had messed up – in asking the court to allow the letter-sending campaign, U+C had equated watching an in-browser video with making an unlawful reproduction, and claimed that it was using software called Gladii 1.1.3 to pick up streamers’ IP addresses, when that software is apparently only useful for monitoring file-sharing networks.

In trying to figure out where the IP addresses came from, some had in fact theorized that RedTube itself was involved. However, last week the porn platform said it had nothing to do with it. The Luxembourg-based firm subsequently applied for the injunction against U+C and The Archive that was granted on Friday.

Characterizing U+C’s actions as “a thinly disguised attempt to extort money” from RedTube’s users, company vice president Alex Taylor said in a statement on Friday:

“It is deplorable that our users were targeted in such an underhanded and malicious manner. Copyright protection is a critical issue and we are overjoyed that German citizens can once again surf the internet without threat of legal penalty. This ruling is a victory not just for RedTube users, but for anyone who accesses a streaming website. It sends a clear message that the exploitation of personal information and the violation of privacy for financial gain will not be tolerated.”

U+C, meanwhile, said in a statement on its website that it was minded to sue the Cologne public prosecutor for saying the law firm had submitted a false affidavit to the court.

  1. Thanks! First point for german-speaking people:
    Abmahnung-Medienrecht.de

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  2. Can you provide a text of the Redtube statement on the Hamburg decision? In German media there is only coverage referring to Frankfurter Rundschau which only seems to have the information. Thank you. Contact: http://archiv.twoday.net

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