Streaming: Will there be a second wave of warning letters?

There are reports in the media that a second wave of streaming warning letters will be sent by the German law firm Urmann & Collegen. Mr Urmann indicated in an interview with a Bavarian newspaper that further warning letters and legal steps will be taken.

Streaming: Will there be a second wave of warning letters? © MS-Fotodesign-Fotolia

Streaming: Will there be a second wave of warning letters? © MS-Fotodesign-Fotolia

[IMPORTANT UPDATE as of May 2017] The information below reflects the previously valid legal approach to streaming. As part of a landmark judgment of May 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that streaming of works protected by copyright is illegal as long as the original source is clearly illegal (ECJ, Case C-527/15). You can find the details about this latest judgment on streaming in our blog article at

Therefore, the text below may not reflect the current legal situation [END OF UPDATE]

A second wave of streaming warning letters

Before Christmas, the German law firm Urmann + Collegen sent a wave of warning letters accusing internet users of breaching German copyright law through streaming.

In an interview with a Bavarian newspaper on 8.1.2014, Mr Uramnn indicated that further legal steps will be taken and stated that “it will be a stressful week, next week”. This has led many to believe that a second wave of streaming warning letters is going to be sent.

Here at WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE, our German lawyers believe that Mr Urmann was simply trying to cause people to panic. The possibility of a second wave of streaming warning letters being sent is extremely small. Given the current climate, Mr Urmann can no longer assert that he acted in good faith when monitoring and recording IP addresses, nor can he maintain that the warning letters he sent are legally sound.

For these reasons, the lawyers at WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE believe that U+C will not pursue the current warning letters any further and that a second wave of streaming warning letters can be ruled out.

For the following three reasons, the Redtude warning letters sent before Christmas are most likely illegal:

1) No rights to copyright protection

The streaming warning letters were sent in the name of supposed copyright holder, The Archive AG. Since being sent, doubts have arisen as to whether The Archive AG even owns the corresponding copyright. If this turns out to be true, The Archive AG had no right to send the warning letters.

2) Erroneous disclosure orders

In order to obtain the addresses of internet connection owners, applications for disclosure were made to the district court in Cologne. Two chambers of court rejected the applications for being imprecise. Indeed, while other chambers granted disclosure orders, there are reasons to believe the judges made and error. As a result, appeals seeking a declaration that the disclosure orders are illegal have already been lodged. You can download our model appeal notice (in German) here.

3) Streaming is not illegal

In our opinion, streaming is not illegal.

Firstly, § 44a German Copyright Act (Urheberrechtsgesetz, UrhG) permits the copying of copyright protected-works if the copy is to enable lawful use and is: (i) temporary or incidental, (ii) an integral and necessary technical measure and (iii) has no independent economic value. These factors apply to streaming.

Secondly, regardless of the legal discussion on streaming, § 53 UrhG allows private copies of copyright-protected material to be made, provided the source from which the copy is made is not clearly illegal. The Redtube website is not ‘clearly illegal’.

In addition, Germany’s Ministry of Justice recently confirmed in an opinion that it believes streaming does not infringe German copyright law. This only strengthens our view that streaming is not illegal.

What to do if a second wave of streaming warning letters is sent

If, despite the above, a second wave of streaming warning letters is sent we would strongly advise you not to submit the declaration to cease and desist or even a modified declaration to cease and desist. If you do so, you would undertake to not watch the relevant video again without the consent of the copyright holder. The pre-printed version of the declarations are also drafted by the opposition in such a way that you would admit you are guilty of committing a copyright infringement.

In addition, you should not make any payments to U + C. Finally, you should react to the letter by disputing the claim.

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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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