Copyright

Copyright law: downloading protected streaming content declared illegal

In a case heard on 25 April 2013, the regional court in Hamburg declared it illegal to download protected streaming content.

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Breach of German copyright law

The case concerned open source stream video recorder software called JDownloader2, which allowed protected streaming content stored on ProSiebenSat.1’s video platform, Myvideo.de, to be downloaded. The content was protected by technical measures including the use of Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMPE) and a token URL.

The court found that the open source software’s download function was designed to circumvent the protective measures and therefore breached German copyright law.

An injunction was granted against Appwork, the company which offered the software. As a result, developing, disseminating and owning the software is subject to a fine of 250,000 euros.

Recording streaming content

Appwork stresses that the court did not pronounce a general ban on downloading streaming content, rather it declared the downloading of content protected by RTMPE illegal.

The company also highlighted that the function was made available through a beta version of the software and that the official version of the JDownloader has never contained the function.

Liability for open source software

Reacting to the injunction, director Thomas Rechenmacher explained that, “The beta versions (called “Nightly Builds”) are generated every five minutes on the basis of modifications made to the software by the open-source community. A developer from the community installed the function.”

The download function has since been removed and Appwork claims both JDownloader2 and the Nightly Builds are now legal.

Nevertheless, Rechenmacher has lodged an appeal against the injunction as he wants the question answered as to whether open-source operators are now liable for software developed by their communities.

Reaction from Wilde Beuger Solmecke

Lawyer and partner at the Cologne-based media law firm Wilde Beuger Solmecke seconded the position stating:

“The fundamental legal question is who is liable for open source software. Are open-source operators now under a duty to monitor each and every modification made by their communities for legal infringements?”

The appeal court hearing is set for 12 September 2013.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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