German Court Pulls Orders Granted To Copyright Troll U+C; Grants Injunction Against Future Demand Letters
from the undoing-the-damage dept
Urmann+Colleagues (U+C) is having a hell of a month. It looked to be briefly on the path to the sort of financial success copyright trolls like Prenda and Mailbu Media can only dream about. U+C sent out at least 10,000 settlement letters earlier this month asking for €250 ($344) from viewers who had streamed certain pornographic titles on RedTube.
The problems inherent in U+C's "business model" swiftly became apparent. First off, it appeared the agency had misled a German court by presenting RedTube as a file-sharing site, rather than a streaming site. In addition, U+C had somehow acquired subscriber info and IP addresses, data not easily obtained from the streaming sites. (RedTube has denied multiple times that it provided this info to U+C). German lawyers stepped up and informed the public that the demand letters were problematic to say the least and that there was little chance the demands were enforceable under German law (thanks to streaming of infringing content not being illegal).
Now it's not just lawyers standing in the way of U+C's easy money. The court has stepped in, admitting its mistake in approving U+C's requests and revoking court orders compelling Deutsche Telekom to hand over subscriber info on nearly 50,000 IP addresses.
The question still remains as to how U+C acquired these IP addresses. Ars Technica reports that some German internet users who received demand letters found the following redirect in their internet history.
http://hit.trafficholder.com/transfer.php?http://49655.movfile.netAccording to German tech site heise.de, these harvested IP addresses can be acquired for a certain amount of cash. Ars Technica was unable to secure a comment from TrafficHolder, despite its website's promise of "round the clock customer service." TrafficHolder also failed to respond to emailed queries.
Which then finally resolves to Redtube.com.
This development gives U+C's efforts the appearance of a small-time honeypot, something that could generate further legal problems for the company. But as German lawyer Christian Solmecke points out, attempting to recover fines or costs from U+C (and its benefactor, The Archive AG) would be a long, drawn-out process that could last as long as 18 months. For most of those targeted by U+C's shady tactics, simply not paying a $344 fine will be victory enough.
The Archive AG (supposedly the rights holder for the porn titles in question) hasn't completely dodged the fallout from this ham-fisted collection attempt. RedTube has been granted an injunction against the company that prevents it from hassling its viewers about alleged copyright infringement. From the press release:
The District Court of Hamburg has granted an injunction in reaction to Cease and Desist letters sent to RedTube users by law firm Urmann Collegen on behalf of the Archive AG. RedTube, the leading provider of adult content filed an injunction earlier this week to prevent further harassing RedTube users with threatening Cease and Desist letters and alleging copyright infringement.RedTube again reiterated its claim that it never exposed any user data, nor did it turn over any info to U+C or The Archive AG, either of its own free will or via a court order.
As ruled by the court, The Archive AG is no longer allowed to send out warning letters to Redtube users claiming that the users violated the copyright of The Archive AG -- not only with regard to the videos mentioned by Urmann Collegen in the warning letters, but in regards to any specific videos. The claims by the Archive AG have been deemed unfounded and users of streaming websites, including RedTube, are once again free to access and enjoy videos with peace of mind.
U+C isn't shy about using shady tactics to boost collections. As has been covered here in the past, U+C has attempted to shame file sharers into paying fees by threatening to expose their porn habits to the public. This latest attempt is just as legally questionable. Of course, nothing happening now will mean a thing if, in the future, U+C is able to deploy nefarious tactics with the blessing of the confused German court.