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.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.
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.”
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.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.
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.
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.