Berlin Law Firm Files Criminal Complaint Against Copyright Troll U+C Alleging Its Demand Letters Are Fraudulent

from the but-no-one-would-fight-being-accused-of-stealing-porn,-would-they? dept

German copyright troll Urmann + Colleagues' (U+C) pain is only just beginning. U+C misrepresented a streaming service as a file-sharing site to a German court in order to obtain subscriber info on thousands of German RedTube users. U+C then used this fraudulently-obtained data to send out collection letters to over 10,000 users, demanding a payment of $345 for copyright infringement.

Red flags were raised by a handful of German lawyers who noted that almost everything about U+C's actions bordered on illegal. At the very least, U+C couldn't demand payment for activity not considered to be infringement by the German courts. The backlash began there.

First, the court that had issued the 50 orders (covering thousands of IP addresses) revoked them after it became apparent that U+C had misrepresented RedTube's service. Then RedTube itself was granted an injunction forbidding U+C (and The Archive AG -- which apparently "owns" the copyright to the porn titles at the center of all this activity) from sending out further demand letters to its German users.

Now a Berlin law firm (MMR Müller Müller Rößner) has filed a criminal complaint against U+C, alleging fraud and blackmail. According to the firm, U+C payment demands were predicated on a false claim (that German RedTube users were liable for copyright infringement for viewing a streamed video). Under German law, nothing illegal had occurred, but U+C was obviously hoping ignorance of the law would net it some income from RedTube users. Roughly paraphrased (and even more roughly translated), the law firm accuses U+C of deploying a "grandson trick" -- a scam -- that preys on the gullible and ignorant, and leverages the underlying threat that their targets' porn-watching habits could be exposed if payment isn't prompt.

Additionally, the method that U+C used to obtain IP addresses still hasn't been adequately explained. Even if it did use a completely above-board method to harvest viewers' IP addresses, the way RedTube serves its streams makes proving who watched what video almost impossible.

Even more incredibly, U+C lawyer Thomas Urmann claimed earlier this month that it makes no difference if shady methods were used to obtain the IP addresses. According to him, it's "too late" to raise that objection seeing as the court had already ruled in U+C's favor by issuing the orders to release user data. Urmann is likely not feeling quite as confident now that the court has repealed its support and revoked the earlier orders, but it's still a bit discomfiting to hear a lawyer boldly claim that the ends justify the possibly illegal means.

Another law firm (Diehl & Partner) weighing in on U+C's misconduct wonders exactly what it plans to use as evidence should any of these cases go to court, considering the works under discussion were only streamed and not downloaded. Obviously, this question is almost entirely rhetorical. Demand letters sent on a massive scale are the business model, not the first step in a complex legal strategy. Here in the US, courts have become less and less willing to entertain copyright trolls' low-level extortion schemes. U+C's audacious (and possibly fraudulent) letter writing campaign will only hasten the development of an identical legal climate in Germany.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2013 @ 4:07am

    and exactly how many of the previous examples that have been used in the USA and UK, for example, also were based on illegal methods? all of the entertainment industries law suits are based on the ability to spy on customers, via the IP addresses. that, i believe, has been ruled on as being illegal in the EU because of the invasion of privacy

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2013 @ 4:13am

    They better put those nipple flaps up before they get judgeburn.

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

  3. identicon
    anonymouse, 31 Dec 2013 @ 5:09am


    Why can the courts not just make an order that any downloading of content be it streaming or directly downloading is legal. even if it involves uploading of parts of the file being downloaded, damn if we actually download any file from the internet there will always be uploading of data this is the way the internet works.

    There is only one way to stop these maffia type attacks on people and that is to make it completely illegal for anyone to get ip information other than the police through a court order where they show an absolute proof that the person owing the ip address has used it at the time of the infringement.

    Lets stop any joe soap from getting ip information, and only allow specific police departments the right to even apply to the court for information on ip address activity.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2013 @ 8:10am

    Re: WHY!!!!!

    Yes, giving ip info only to police will solve things!

    The police are always perfectly honest model citizens that will never, ever act as the henchmen for the entertainment industry.

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

  5. icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 31 Dec 2013 @ 8:16am

    Somebody tried to use a Grandson Trick variant on my mother-in-law recently, claiming she was my daughter [insert older daughter's name here], had been arrested in Oregon for drunk driving and needed money wired to her for bail. My MIL isn't that easily tricked, she told the woman to call my wife, then called my wife herself. In the end the story got passed around with a lot of chuckles because a) my daughter drinks very little, b) doesn't drive (no license, though we're working on that) and c) was safely here with me in Sacramento.

    It would have been even funnier if she's used my YOUNGER daughter's name. Hilarious, in fact. I wish somebody would try that, the whole family would be laughing at them for months.

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

  6. identicon
    Techanon, 31 Dec 2013 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: WHY!!!!!

    One example of an outstanding police department that's not a corporate henchman: City of London Police

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

  7. icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 31 Dec 2013 @ 9:25am


    Oh, and she called her "grandma". Nobody calls her "grandma".

    ...Now I have to call Dad and warn him, just in case.

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

  8. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Dec 2013 @ 9:35am

    Gee where have I heard a lawyer hedging like this before.
    Even if we did do this, it wasn't illegal...

    Oh yeah, John Steele.

    Copyright law is broken globally, and when there is no punishment spelled out for trying to game the law they will keep gaming it.

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

  9. icon
    aldestrawk (profile), 31 Dec 2013 @ 9:51am

    Urmann and his henchman, Daniel Sebastian, are sleaze-bag lawyers par excellence. They have claimed that the method for uncovering IP addresses is a trade secret and is also covered under attorney-client privilege. There is a question now whether The Archive has the full property rights needed to sue for infringement. The 10 films in question are supposedly still being marketed as their own by Combat Zone, the American company that produced the films.

    Klemens Kowalski has confirmed that the websites for The Archive AG and for ItGuards Inc. are both hosted by Wix under the same account. lter/

    Itguards, supposedly the company that created the software to divine the IP addresses from Redtube, has its headquarters in a mailbox in downtown San Jose, CA. For locals, the mailbox is rented out by NextSpace, an office sharing/tech community building business housed in the same building as the Gordon Biersch brewery

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous, 31 Dec 2013 @ 2:52pm

    No more words!

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

  11. icon
    Jon Jones (profile), 31 Dec 2013 @ 6:30pm

    And again the only people that win are the lawyers.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2013 @ 9:03pm

    average_joe can't stand it when due process is enforced.

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

  13. identicon
    Ralph Meeks, 2 Jan 2014 @ 3:32am

    Concerning the shyster's claim that it makes no difference if illegal methods were used to obtain the IP addresses, this might partially be true. Under current German law, there is no fruit of the poisonous tree law. The FedRep's authorities themselves bought CDs with data of German tax dodgers from a Swiss fence. Those data had been stolen from Swiss banks and the authorities of the FedRep were aware of this.

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

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