Illegal Downloads

17, March 2023

Having fast and unlimited internet connections is one of the perks of living in Germany. With speed averaging about 50Mbps and some internet service providers boasting of having speed as high as 1000Mbps, the internet is there for the taking. With this freedom to the internet comes the desire to download almost anything. However, with this freedom comes a responsibility to ensure safe and legal downloads.

Internet Download

The Germany system is very strict in enforcing copyright laws and readers are advised to always ensure that all downloads are not illegal. The points below give more insight on how to stay safe.

  • What is actually illegal?

The general definition is whatever would need paying for, obtaining it outside the proper channel without paying becomes illegal. It could be music, movies or books; as long as the owner has placed a copyright on it, downloading it could lead to a crime. Alternatively, viewing these files online without downloading to your computer is the best way to avoid litigation.

  • How does the system work?

Companies with contents that have copyrights, media companies or copyright protection associations hire firms which specialize in monitoring networks which allow for file exchange or p2p protocols. These firms track down IP addresses of users who have violated the copyrights of their clients. Afterwards. The firm requests for the identity of the IP address owner from the internet service provider, usually after obtaining a court order. This is because the ISPs cannot disclose such information without legal backing. When the user has been identified, he is sent a letter disclosing the crime as well as the court order.

Torrents is the usual jackpots for the monitoring firms as it involves lots of user’s file exchange. Torrents aren’t inherently prohibited, but lots of illegal files are shared through them and this increases the likelihood of being flagged as an illegal downloader.

  • Secure your connections

It is always important to secure your internet connection against unauthorized use, as a person might gain access to your connection and use it to download something illegal. According to a ruling by the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of German Justice) on June 11, 2015 that the owner of the line can be held responsible for every illegal download. (BGH, 11.06.2015 – I ZR 75/14). This means irrespective of who makes the download, the person who is registered with the internet provider is the one to be held responsible. If you live in a hostel, joint apartment or shared flat with a common internet this could be a problem. Be sure to inform everyone who joins the network about the implication.

  • Receiving a letter

If after all precautions, you could receive a letter from a lawyer (Abmahnung) stating that there has been a copyright violation. This is usually a formal notice requesting the recipient to fill and send back a signed form (Unterlassungserklärung) declaring that the person had not downloaded the files in question. It also asks that a fine is paid within a given period. The first thing you should do is speak with a lawyer. Do not ignore the mail, even if you’re sure there was no such illegal download from you. You could risk legal actions being taken against you if you ignore.

The fees required to be paid might run into hundreds of euros and a lawyer is the best option of having a reduced fine, or the charges dropped entirely. If you’re an international student, you could speak to the international office of your university, or the legal department of your firm if you’re an expatriate. Another option is to speak to the Centre for Consumer Protection in Europe for free counselling, as they have lot of experience in dealing in such.

Conclusively, the best way to avoid being implicated is to stay safe and use legal streaming services.