German Copyright Troll Sends Thousands Of Shady Demand Letters To Users Of Streaming Porn Site, Redtube

from the this-again? dept

Online porn is big business, perhaps not so much for pornographers as it is for copyright trolls and anxious government entities. Urmann and Colleagues (U+C), a German copyright troll, is continuing the settlement letter tactics it began last year. The difference this time is that rather than pursuing downloaders via torrent tracking and threatening to out them as porn watchers if they don't pay up, U+C is now targeting viewers who have streamed allegedly infringing content from porn aggregator Redtube.

Tens of thousands of German internet users have been sent threatening letters by a law firm apparently acting on behalf of a rights-holder, on the basis that they watched copyrighted material on the pornographic video-streaming site Redtube.

The letters, issued by law firm U + C on behalf of Swiss firm The Archive AG, demand €250 ($344) per watched clip. The films in question include titles such as “Hot Stories” and “Amanda’s Secrets.”
According to the source article, a Cologne-based lawyer estimates that, based on the number of calls he alone has received, U+C has targeted 20,000-30,000 viewers.

There are multiple problems with what's going on here. First of all, The Archive AG is itself a "copyright protection" company, meaning it's acting on behalf of the porn producers through U+C, rather than producing the porn. Beyond that, the titles listed in the letters (Miriam's Adventures, Amanda's Secret, Dream Trip, Hot Stories) show up in searches only a) as part of articles detailing U+C's actions or b) as the unrelated names of websites and blogs. If this porn exists other than on Redtube, it's not easily located on the web.

Furthermore, U+C offers no proof that these titles were uploaded to Redtube without permission. On top of that, there's plenty of legal questions surrounding the supposed illegality of viewing infringing streams, especially since users are never fully in possession of the infringing content. Even if they were in possession of the video (however temporarily), German law allows for "private copying" without legal penalty.

Then there's the question of how U+C obtained IP addresses. Data on streaming viewers isn't as easy to obtain as it is with torrent services.
As for how the viewers’ IP addresses were identified, that also remains a mystery for now. The itGuards “Gladii” software mentioned in court records is reportedly only designed for monitoring file-sharing networks. File-sharing is easier to monitor in this sense, as IP addresses are there for the harvesting unless the user deploys a VPN or proxy.

Some have suggested that users were targeted with malware that harvested their IP addresses. If so, this would be a new low for a particularly obnoxious facet of the copyright industry.
According to the source article, U+C apparently misrepresented Redtube as a file sharing site ("swap meet" in the original article) in order to obtain court orders demanding the release of subscriber IP addresses.

What this looks like is Prenda-type tactics. Misrepresentation to the court. Possible honeypot deployment (the porn titles seem to be nonexistent). Shakedown letters sent en masse. And, going one step further than the most infamous of porn copyright trolls, the possible deployment of malware to track IP addresses. (Google currently indicates that Redtube "might be hacked.")

With the ownership of the disputed clips almost impossible to verify and U+C's tactics crossing the line from "shady" to "possibly illegal," lawyers in Germany are advising recipients of the demand letters to ignore them for the time being and by no means encourage U+C by paying the legally dubious fee. Of course, it will probably take more than this to discourage U+C. Settlement letters are generally issued on the same principle as mass mailing: a 1% response rate is more than enough to cover the expenses incurred.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 4:06am

    Funny how often 'copyright enforcement' seems to involve, if not outright breaking the law, then abuse of the system and/or lies to the various courts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anon E. Mous (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 5:44am

    Right now Steele and Hansmeier are sitting there going " location, location, location...dam'it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 5:53am

    Re:

    Well, among the several other reasons they're likely wishing they weren't currently in the US...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 6:28am

    Watching is illegal...how?

    I get how technically copyright prohibits someone from 'sharing' a video since it grants the creator the right to distribute.

    But how in any legal frame of mine is consumption of material (only) considered a violation of copyright?

    If someone broadcast a video in Time Square, would they claim that anyone there needs to pay up? (obviously public performance vs your local computer but just food for thought)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 6:29am

    Re:

    Trying to do the court-side scam in almost any european country is suicidal given that the wins only give small damages and the losses are brutal (loser pays for the show). It bears no real resemblance of courtside abuse like Prenda.

    This just seems like a case of garden-variety racketeering.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 6:38am

    Google ratted them out: logs and tracks EVERY web-site visit.

    "Data on streaming viewers isn't as easy to obtain as it is with torrent services."

    Since minion states it's a mystery, that's my bet. Google IS the net-wide malware, the hidden FINK. I'm telling ya, kids: your "friend" Google has the goods on you, needs only for name or IP address to be specifically targeted, and then it's all gathered into one pile. With "direct" access to Google as Snowden states, to find and collate these users would take its super-computers a few seconds, tops.

    As for minion's assertions that this is a honeypot trap, well, guess we'll see.

    Remember pirates: Google can rat you out to RIAA and MPAA!

    02:37:49[c-370-4]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    S. T. Stone, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 6:46am

    Re: Google ratted them out: logs and tracks EVERY web-site visit.

    Door’s to your left. Mind your tinfoil hat.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:16am

    "Copyright troll Malibu Media has suffered a setback with their plans to extract cash settlements from file-sharers in Germany. After trying to get the ball rolling with some of their X-Art movies, the U.S.-based company was handed a surprise ruling by the District Court of Munich. The Court declared that due to their “primitive depiction of sexual activities”, Malibu’s adult movies do not deserve protection under Germany’s Copyright Act." http://torrentfreak.com/porn-films-dont-get-copyright-protection-in-germany-court-rules-130701/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:22am

    It's sort of funny that these copyright enforcement tactics are evolving (or devolving) into the next Prince from Nigeria scam.
    I already look at them in the same respect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    Re:

    I sent all my money to Nigeria and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Ninja (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    Oh come on, threats over “Hot Stories” and “Amanda’s Secrets” are non-threats. Or maybe they are saving the "Goatse love" and "Eel in the tube" for the die hard ones?

    Disturbed note: yes, there is eel porn (What. The. Fuck. Japan.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    $344 per video you view? That's outrageous, I'd spend my entire annual salary in a month or two on such fines.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    John Steele is a mugu.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    PaulT (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    Re: Google ratted them out: logs and tracks EVERY web-site visit.

    Sad. I was hoping one of you idiots would at least try to come up with an explanation as to why viewers of a streaming service should be liable for the copyright status of the videos they watched. I'd then see how far you can streatch your reasoning - e.g. if Netflix let a licence expire but didn't remove the video in time, would every viewer be legally liable? If so why? If not, how does this story differ, etc.?

    Alas, you once again show you have no interest in any real argument, just a raving lunatic.

    "Google has the goods on you, needs only for name or IP address to be specifically targeted, and then it's all gathered into one pile"

    You know who else has all your records in one "pile"? Your ISP. They're storing your records RIGHT NOW and you're paying them for the privilege! Quick, get offline and stay there before you're recorded saying something else stupid!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Re:

    The cocksucker defending pornographic litigators, what a surprise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    stefan, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Makes no sense

    This seems unjust because of the obvious logical problem: how can the viewer know the copyright status of anything offered online?

    If the viewer is liable regardless of knowledge, no one is safe with any site. Or if it depends on knowledge, is a statement on a website sufficient? Or what?

    Maybe someone would say "it's obvious" that a certain site "looks piratey" while another looks legitimate, but any such standard would be very subjective.

    Note that the same considerations would apply in principle to images, text, music or other materials, as well as video.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 8:31am

    No porn for you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Tice with a J, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 9:46am

    This is why you need to wear protection

    Remember to practice safe sex, kids: always use a proxy and a firewall when watching porn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re:

    You are lucky, I only got the picture of one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 11:44am

    harvesting IP addresses

    http://www.stern.de/digital/online/redtube-nutzer-trittbrettfahrer-versenden-gefaelschte-porno-abmah nungen-2076575.html

    From this Stern article article it appears that after the existence of these demand letters became public news, some witty clown took advantage of this to send fake demand letters containing malware.

    So, the Swiss firm "The Archive" got a court order to obtain account details for thousands of IP addresses. The mystery is how they obtained those IP addresses of alleged streamers of the copyright protected porn that was uploaded to Redtube.com. Now, it's possible that those uploaded porn files were a honeypot that contained an exploit that harvested the IP address of any streamer. That seems risky to me because analysis of the video file could reveal such an exploit. Are any of these video files still available on Redtube? There are a couple of other possibilities:

    1) If a webpage with the video in question can contain user comments or located ads, then a script can report back the IP address of anyone visiting the page

    2) Suppose that "The Archive" put an ad anywhere on Redtube or on any website that they think such serious users of porn portals [that lovely phrase is from a lawyer looking to defend users] might frequent. This ad could contain a script that is used to query various websites. Suppose the webpages queried are the ones on Redtube for the videos in question. The timing of the response to the query can determine whether that webpage is cached in the users browser. One aspect I am unsure about is the difference between viewing the webpage and actually viewing the streamed video.

     

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  21.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: harvesting IP addresses

    correction: my favorite phrase of the day is from the German Copyright act:

    Für Nutzer seriöser Erotikportale

    translated by Google translate as:

    for users serious erotic portals

    which can be modified for better understanding to be:

    for serious users of erotic portals

     

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  22.  
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    btrussell (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Too bad he hadn't advertised a pic of a tee, you could get your money back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 5:52pm

    Re:

    Japan will literally let anything into their orifices except a real phallus, which must be hilariously pixelated because the thought of having to look at one is mind-destroyingly disturbing.

    Land of the anime.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 5:58pm

    The question is will the German courts care.
    They already threw the book at a woman who no longer owned a computer, had sold it before the alleged offense, and would never have downloaded the extremist content they claimed had been downloaded on her IP.
    The basis of the laws in Germany seem to be if a company says so, it is so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    techflaws (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 10:16pm

    Re: Makes no sense

    Hey, who said German laws were logical? The law talks about "obviously illegal sources" without defining them at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Makes no sense...., Dec 12th, 2013 @ 3:16am

    Re: Re: Makes no sense

    German legislation often assume terms defined in other legislation. And "obviously illegal sources" sounds like it just might be one of those assumed terms (possibly from the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). What is more: any interpretation of German legislation requires that the interpreter know the commentaries (Kommentare) on the legislation s/he is attempting to interpret.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2013 @ 5:31pm

    I've never even heard of Redtube. I didn't watch any porn on this computer either. Wtf?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2014 @ 6:01am

    Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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