More Porn Viewers to Be Fingered in Germany — Lawyer

Dec 16, 2013 4:15 PM PST

COLOGNE — Thomas Urmann, the principal at German law firm Urmann and Colleagues that recently sent out letters asking 30,000 RedTube users to pay up for viewing alleged pirated content, says he has his sights on targeting visitors to other popular porn websites, as well.

"RedTube was more like a test balloon," Urmann told Welt on Sonntag over the weekend. "We have been looking into different sites, and therefore I anticipate sending letters to users of those portals in the coming months.”

Urmann did not indicate or hint about the adult entertainment sites that might be fingered in the future.

Last week, some German legal counsel assumed that an error at Cologne federal court had led to the sending of the letters, which asked for the payment of  €250 fines, plus attorneys fees, to a Swiss media agent that claimed to hold copyright for the films "Amanda's Secret," "Miriam's Adventure" and "Glamour Show Girls." The counsel believed the court confused RedTube, a user-generated adult tube site, as a file-sharing website. Germany has outlawed peer-to-peer sites operating in Germany.

But now Urmann says his firm plans to look into more infringements on porn streaming sites in the coming year. He says the letters sent out were at the behest of clients who own copyrights that were infringed on.

In the Welt on Sonntag article, Urmann explained that it no longer made sense to try to fine people for using file-sharing sites because users have become aware they are illegal and have moved to streaming. 

So the latest legal maneuver is to focus on users who view pirated content, Urmann said.

But the questions over whether users can be fingered and held liable for viewing streamed pirated content is a murky one.

Attorney Christian Solmecke, who has gotten in touch with many of those who received the letter, says he has advised them neither to pay the €250-per-clip fine nor sign a release.

“Whether streaming is illegal under German copyright law is hotly debated amongst law experts,” Solmecke said. “We believe streaming is legal. RedTube users have done nothing illegal and should not give in to the demands in the warning letters."

And while the Cologne federal court approved access to the RedTube user data, other courts in the nation might not approve of targeting the end users of pirated content.

"If the Oberlandesgericht Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt arrive at different interpretations of the law, then the issue is finally decided in five to eight years [at] the Supreme Court," Urmann said.

MindGeek last week said that it had not passed on IP addresses of users to Urmann and his firm. "The safety of the users is a top priority," RedTube's Alex Taylor said.

RedTube, one of the most prolific adult tube sites with about 25 million daily users, was acquired by adult entertainment conglomerate Manwin this past summer. Manwin in November rebranded as MindGeek. 

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