File sharing law was recently changed in Germany. Copyright holders no longer have the option to choose the court in which to bring their copyright infringement claim. However, a court has ruled that the choice of jurisdiction still applies to old cases.
File sharing jurisdiction rules
Following the introduction of new rules on improper business practices, the German Copyright Act was amended, leading to the abolition of the choice of jurisdiction rule in file sharing cases (see § 104a UrhG).
Under previous jurisdiction rules, copyright holders who suspected a person of infringing copyright through the use of file sharing websites were free to choose the court in which to bring their claim.
This had the effect that copyright holders would choose those courts which tended to be more copyright-holder friendly. Consequently internet users accused of violating copyright saw themselves faced with a court claim hundreds of miles away from their place of residence. Furthermore, some courts became overwhelmed with file sharing claims.
The Higher Regional Court of Hamburg has ruled that the new jurisdiction rules do not apply to file sharing cases which existed before 09.10.2013, i.e. before the amendment (case ref. 5 W 93/13). In these cases, copyright holders still have a choice of jurisdiction.
Given the inconsistent case law, internet users accused of infringing copyright before the introduction of the new laws should assume that copyright holders are still entitled to bring their claims in any court in Germany.