Downloading in Germany: Legal or illegal?

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When living abroad it is important to be aware of the legality related to the information you obtain through an internet connection. In other words, is it legal to download web content in Germany? Since it seems to be an important topic for you guys, keep reading to discover more about the german legislation and to find the answers to all your questions.

Is downloading legal in Germany?

Let´s start from the very beginning.

German law consider that sharing content protected by copyright is illegal. That means, that you should be careful when using P2P programs such as Emule or Torrent because when we download any content from those online tools we are, at the same time, sharing it with other users, and that is the main problem. We are sharing copyright protected content with other online users.

Furthermore, when using those kind of programs we allow other users to see our IP address.

IP address: Internet suppliers (ISP) are obliged to share information regarding an IP address if the user is sharing content protected by copyright. Why? Because all responsibility will fall on the internet line’s owner. What does it mean? Let me explain it with an example. After a couple of months in Germany, a friend of mine hosted a christmas party at his place. In that party, some guests found out some interesting songs on the internet and they decided to download them. After three months my friend received a letter where we was asked to pay a fine of almost 5.000€ due to the high amount of songs that his friends downloaded at the christmas party. Although my friend did not download any single song, he is the owner of the internet line, therefore, the fine was addressed to him.

What happen if I receive a fine?

I know some people who received the famous letter. I like to say that this letter does not contain a fine in essence, but a blackmail.

I call it blackmail because the letter is sent by law firms, hired by companies owning copyrighted items, to monitor the traffic of platforms such as Torrent and similar entities to find copyrighted items. Basically, the letter is a warning to let you know that this lawyers know what you did and if you do not want to go to court you should pay a fine.

The most active law firm is Waldorf Frommer  (all people I know received the letter from this lawyer´s office).

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What should I do after receiving the letter?

The first minutes after receiving the copyright infringement letter can be really confusing; Should I pay the requirement amount? Should we ignore the letter? Should I hire a lawyer?

Well, let me tell you three options that you should take into account when receiving the letter:

  • To Pay: The act of paying the required amount to the lawyer´s firm means to recognized that you downloaded web content illegally. What does it imply? If you recognize your guilt you will automatically be registered on the german police´s records of criminal activity during 30 years. Furthermore, you will pay a high amount of money (people I know were asked to pay between 900€ and 5.000€).

 

  • To Ignore the Letter: To be honest, this is a risky option. Why? Because if after sending you three letters, the lawyer´s firm does not receive an answer from your side, they will take you to court. This 3 letters must be send in a 3 years period. If after the third year you have received non or less than 3 letters, you will be free of charge and you won´t hear anymore from them.

 

  • To Hire a Lawyer: With this option you will spend some many, less than if choosing the first option though. Why? Because your lawyer will find the best agreement for you, so that you will be declared no guilty and you won´t have to pay a high amount of money.

 

Which is the best option?

To be honest I would recommend you to hire a lawyer to whom you will pay around 300€. This amount will be a good investment though, since you will be able to avoid paying a high amount of money and going to court.

Important information: Do not sign any form and/or do not pay any fine without the approbation of a lawyer. Once you do it, you will declare yourself guilty of a crime.

Now it is you turn, have you ever heard about this letter? Have you ever received it? What do you think about this topic?

 

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