German Law Firm Must Pay Damages After Sending Porn Infringement Letters

Apr 13, 2015 5:47 PM PST

COLOGNE — A German federal court has issued a default judgment against a law firm that sent out 20,000 copyright infringement letters to RedTube users who were notified that they had been streaming porn online illegally.

In 2013, the now-defunct German law firm of Urmann and Colleagues had been able to convince a Cologne federal court that it needed the names and addresses of users associated with IP addresses to commence infringement proceedings against them.

With those names and addresses in hand, Urmann and Colleagues, acting on behalf of Swiss copyright company Archive, sent out the 20,000 letters to recipients asking to settle and pay up per alleged infringement.

In the letters, Urmann and Colleagues ordered users in Germany to pay €1,000 in compensation for streaming "pirated" videos on as well as legal fees of €150 and investigative costs of up to €250 for streaming movies such as "Glamour Showgirls" and "Amanda's Secret" that were placed on RedTube.

RedTube’s owner, MindGeek, at the time said that it had nothing to do with the law firm’s shakedown of its users, which reportedly netted €600,000 for Urmann and Colleagues.

A year later, in January 2014, Germany's Ministry of Justice gave judicial notice that the mere viewing of a copyrighted video stream without permission is not in itself an act of copyright infringement.

After the notice was issued, litigators on behalf of some of the accused RedTube users emerged with a keen focus on looking at strong-arm tactics employed by Urmann and Colleagues and its name partner, Thomas Urmann.

A civil case asking for damages ensued, but Urmann failed to show up in court to defend It against him and his firm, which the court said was liable for damages.

The court ordered a default judgment, however a final ruling that will spell out the amount of damages Urmann and his firm will be on the hook for has yet to be filed by the court.

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