File sharing

File sharing: U+C’s threatened porno pillory is illegal

In 2012, the German law firm Urmann + Collegen threatened to publish on its website of the personal details of the people to whom it had sent file sharing warning letters. A court in Germany has ruled that such action would be illegal.

File sharing: U+C’s threatened porno pillory is illegal ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

File sharing: U+C’s threatened porno pillory is illegal ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

File sharing warning letter

After receiving a copyright infringement notice in 2010 accusing him of using file sharing websites to exchange copyright-protected porn films, a connection owner contested that he had not been at home at the alleged time the film was exchanged.

The connection owner then heard nothing more until 2012 when, in a press release, Urmann + Collegen threatened to publish the details of all those connection owners to whom it had sent warning letters.

The aim of the threatened action, which targeted exclusively those accused of sharing porn films, was to embarrass connection owners into paying the compensation demanded.

The concerned connection owner applied to the court for an injunction to prevent U+C publishing his personal details on its website.

Illegal porno pillory

The district court of Essen ruled that publishing the details of accused connection owners in the form of an “opposition list” would be illegal (case ref. 4 O 405/12). The court argued that by publishing the connection owners’ names in a so-called porn pillory, U+C would violate the individuals’ right to data protection and their right to private life.

Nevertheless, the court refused to grant the injunction. This is because since threatening to publish its “opposition list”, U+C announced it would not follow through with its intention (press release from 18.09.2012).

The court saw no risk of the infringement taking place and there was therefore no need for U+C to submit an undertaking to cease and desist.

Conclusion

This judgment confirms the position taken in a previous judgment, in which the district court of Essen ruled such a porno pillory would be illegal and prohibited the publication of the list (case ref. 4 O 263/12). The county court in Regensburg also came to the same conclusion (see case ref. 11 C 2472/12).

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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