Court: 30,000 Movie Piracy Threats Could Have No Legal Basis

During the past few weeks an estimated 30,000 Internet users received threatening letters from a lawfirm claiming that they needed to pay hard cash in compensation after 'illegally' watching adult movies on the hugely popular streaming site RedTube. But in a turnaround described as "spectacular" by a lawfirm involved in the dispute, a court has admitted that those individuals' personal details should never have been handed over.

Threatening letters from copyright trolls usually take pretty much the same format – “You’ve downloaded or shared our content using BitTorrent networks and for that we will take you to court. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. For the payment of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars or euros, we can make this all go away.”

Earlier this month, however, there was a new twist to this awful business. Many thousands of individuals began receiving letters from German lawfirm U & C acting on behalf of a Swiss company called The Archive AG. Their claim was that letter recipients had watched several adult titles on the hugely popular adult streaming site RedTube.

Just to put things into perspective, that’s like watching a clip on YouTube and someone coming along with a demand that you pay them cash – a very worrying development indeed.

Wilde Beuger Solmecke, a law firm that specializes in defending Internet users from the threats of copyright trolls, has been working hard on the case and estimates that around 30,000 people have received these demands.

All along the lawfirm has insisted that there is no legal basis for the threats and now, quite amazingly, the court that has been dealing with the case has admitted there may have been a major screw up.

After receiving at least 50 full complaints, the Cologne Regional Court has been reexamining the entire process and now, according to lawyer Christian Solmecke, the Court has made a “spectacular” turnaround.

“Apparently, some of the judges who issued the information decisions now – after knowing the complete situation – have changed their mind (or for the first time formed a complete opinion) and decided that streaming is no longer illegal,” Solmecke explains.

If that is indeed the case, the Court should never have granted The Archive AG’s request to obtain the real-life identities of the RedTube visitors, not least since they had broken no laws. Solmecke says if the Court stands by its ‘new’ interpretation of relevant copyright law (private copying and temporary acts of copying) then visitors to streaming sites should be able to relax once more.

“There are many indications that the judges believe streaming – whether from a legitimate or an unlawful platform – should always regarded as lawful,” Solmecke says.

“For those concerned, the application of this standard would have the advantage that they will not have to worry about the legality of a platform in the future. We have held this legal opinion for a long time.”

The Cologne Regional Court’s decision will be welcomed by all letter recipients but for the Court’s next move we shall have to wait until at least January. The hope is that all 30,000 individuals won’t have to pay a penny and that copyright troll heads will roll. Definitely one to watch.

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