Streaming porn viewers hit with threatening legal letters in Germany

Redtube

Tens of thousands of German internet users have been sent threatening letters by a law firm apparently acting on behalf of a rights-holder, on the basis that they watched copyrighted material on the pornographic video-streaming site Redtube.

The letters, issued by law firm U + C on behalf of Swiss firm The Archive AG, demand €250 ($344) per watched clip. The films in question include titles such as “Hot Stories” and “Amanda’s Secrets.”

According to Stern, some lawyers suggest the court order that permitted these letters should not have been issued on the grounds that, while there is plenty of precedent for targeting those who unlawfully download copyright material, the law around viewing streams is far less well-defined. The situation is further complicated by the fact that it’s not clear to Redtube users whether content streamed over the service was legally uploaded or not.

As for how the viewers’ IP addresses were identified, that also remains a mystery for now. The itGuards “Gladii” software mentioned in court records is reportedly only designed for monitoring file-sharing networks. File-sharing is easier to monitor in this sense, as IP addresses are there for the harvesting unless the user deploys a VPN or proxy.

Some have suggested that users were targeted with malware that harvested their IP addresses. If so, this would be a new low for a particularly obnoxious facet of the copyright industry.

It’s already deeply objectionable behavior to send out thousands of threatening letters in the (usually correct) expectation that none of the recipients will take the costlier route of challenging the letters in court, rather than just paying up to make it all go away. Porn rights-holders have been at the vanguard of this trend, as targets’ embarrassment has made them even more likely to pay.

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