13. December 2013
Thousands of people in Germany have received warning letters from the law firm U+C demanding compensation for breaching copyright through streaming. It turns out that the court orders that allowed access to internet users’ personal data are probably erroneous.
Streaming warning letters
The anger at law firms sending warning letters demanding compensation for breach of copyright for file sharing is well apparent in Germany. For years internet users have been receiving these costly and often exaggerated claims.
Now the law firm U+C has set its sights on streaming. The law firm recently sent a massive wave of warning letters demanding the payment of €250.00.
The law firm Daniel Sebastian monitored the streaming platform, Redtube, to collect the IP addresses of users it claims had been illegally ‘streaming’ content. The firm then applied to a Cologne court for disclosure of the names and addresses behind the IP addresses. Eighty-nine disclosure applications were made. Sixty-two were granted and 27 were rejected.
The disclosure orders that were granted led to the internet service provider, Deutsche Telekom, disclosing the data of thousands of internet users to the law firm Daniel Sebastian which then called on U+C for assistance in sending the warning letters.
It has now emerged that a possible court blunder led to the orders being granted.
The disclosure applications, as published by the law firm Werdermann/von Rüden, mention streaming indirectly once, but then go on to refer to the Redtube platform misleadingly as a “download portal” and claims that users breached copyright by downloading content.
It appears that the judges at the Cologne court went on to make an error in granting orders for the disclosure of internet users’ data.
It is stated in the orders that users breached German copyright law through the “unauthorised dissemination of the works to the public, via so-called file sharing platforms”.
The judges were clearly unaware of the circumstances of the disclosure applications. The applications say nothing of file sharing websites. Instead, the term ‘download portal’ is used; however this term in itself does not precisely reflect streaming.
The excuse offered by the court’s spokesman, namely that the judges simply made typing errors, can hardly be accepted. The entire wording of the relevant orders addresses the use of file sharing websites.
In the meantime, Werdermann/von Rüden has contacted the authorities with a view to bringing criminal charges against Daniel Sebastian for deception following the misleading disclosure applications.
What can recipients of warning letters do?
Given the above, the disclosure orders must surely be unlawful. Nevertheless, this fact has no direct consequences for the streaming warning letters. The data obtained can still be used.
However, thousands of internet users are now entitled to challenge the disclosure of their data and to require the court to revoke the orders.
This could see the Cologne judges busy for a very long time.
Based on the errors made, it seems unlikely that such disclosure orders will be granted by the Cologne court in the future.
If you have received a streaming warning letter, we would strongly advise you not to sign the undertaking to cease and desist or to make any payments.
For assistance and more information, contact our team of expert German lawyers on +49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0.
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