German Court Rules Parents Must Out Their Family Members For Copyright Trolls Or Pay Fines Themselves
from the family-first dept
Copyright trolls are a plague spreading across the world, one which has received far too little social medicine for the taste of many. This virulent form of rent-seeking tends to put out some of the more despicable strategies, from flatout falsely accusing people of piracy, lying to international students about the punishment for copyright infringement, and threatening those that expose their actions.
But a case that was winding its way through German courts sees copyright trolls there now going even further, winning the argument over whether parents should have to serve their own children up to the courts for copyright trolls.
In 2011, a family received a letter from Universal Music, demanding cash alongside claims that Rihanna’s album ‘Loud’ had been illegally shared via their Internet connection. The parents, to whom the letter was addressed, indicated that they had no interest whatsoever in the R&B star. However, one of their three children apparently did, and the parents knew which one had committed the infringement. Perhaps understandably, however, the parents didn’t want to throw their child to the lions. It’s a position that’s supported by a local law which protects family members from having to testify against each other.
The case ended up at the Munich Court of First Instance and the parents were held liable for copyright infringement and ordered to pay almost 3,900 euros. From there the case progressed to the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH), which handed down its ruling Thursday. In a big win for Universal, the BGH upheld the decision of the lower court, holding the parents liable for copyright infringement.
In other words, in the name of copyright trolls that have naught but an IP address to go on, parents in Germany may now face a flavor of Sophie's Choice: give up your children to the copyright troll or pay all fines themselves. Given that we're talking about children here, that likely amounts to the same result, as parents will be the one footing the bill. Still, there is something sadistic about trying to cooerce parents into naming their own children before the court. Keep in mind that this is mere copyright infringement we're talking about, not the typical crimes for which parents have long been expected to be responsible for when their children violate the law. And keep in mind as well how often these copyright trolls are wrong, have faulty or incomplete evidence, and so on.
Levying responsibility for the failure to out one's own family member is almost comically pernicious. That the court saw fit to route around local laws protecting families from this sort of thing in the name of copyright trolls seems doubly so.