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How filesharing in Germany cost me $3000

At my new address, the scientist – passive-aggressively polite – told me I had to sign a retroactive rental contract. This could easily have been done by email — when he asked to meet, I should have smelled a rat, but obliged outside a supermarket in November, not stopping to wonder why both ex-flatmates turned up. ‘While you were here,’ he said once papers were filled out, ‘you used BitTorrent?’

I had, I said, like almost all my friends. Filesharing was in my eyes like speeding on the motorway, an illegality most practised and few cared about. ‘We all do it’, the Barcelonian said, who seemed to have come reluctantly.

The scientist produced a further wad of fine-print forms. ‘We got sued’, he told me, ‘by the music industry.’

* * *

Above is an extract from my piece today at Index on Censorship. Read the rest there.

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Comments

  1. says

    It sounds a bit like “zombie debt”. Long defunct debts Party A once owed to Party B (paid off or written off) are bought up by Scumbag C. Scumbag C then goes on to harass Party A in the hope that the person will pay, even though the debt no longer exists. And when payment doesn’t come, Scumbag C tells credit agencies, ruining Party A’s credit.

    http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/debt-management/zombie-debt.htm

    What sounds most similar to your situation is that those who are trying to collect (Scumbag C) are not those with the legal standing to collect (Party B). It’s third parties out to make a profit based on a threat, essentially a form of blackmail.

  2. Schlumbumbi says

    In Germany, even before the 2011/2013 reforms, he head of the household was legally reponsible for any copyright violations on his premises = He pays. He could try and get compensation from the person who actually did it, but that would’ve required him to actually -prove- his claim in a civil law court. Obtaining a signature below some paperwork from someone who doesn’t speak german, would’ve been a highly questionable basis for that.

    Plus:
    Even if you had been sued by the copyright owner, he would’ve had the same duty – prove his claim, same problem attached.
    You should’ve taken a lawyer – best way to spend 400€ because in the end, you would’ve payed no more than 600€, 700 max. In total. Even before the legal reforms capped these sort of claims, the courts used to (bindingly) set the value of the claims MUCH MUCH lower than what the lawyers would state in their c/a/d/bills (which they only did to intimidate people btw, not because they thought they would be successful). The number of of people who needlessly paid so much more than they would’ve had to, is known to be pretty high.

    Sorry to tell you, but “the scientist” totally threw you under the bus. What a scumbag.

    BTW2: The redtube thing — a short while after the thing got going, it became clear that the IPs of the downloaders were not only obtained illegaly, but that the claimant lied to the courts about the nature of the alleged violation (they claimed filesharing instead of streaming). The whole thing has turned around 180 degrees, with state prosecutors going after the claimant and the lawyers who helped them.

  3. says

    @Schlumbumbi (#2)

    You should’ve taken a lawyer

    In hindsight, probably. My point is, the scheme works by exploiting people’s ignorance/intimidation/unpreparedness. It’s easy to say now what I should have done – if it happened now I’d do a hundred things differently – but most of the time, the people who fall victim to this are people who aren’t savvy about it and are being exploited.

    Sorry to tell you, but “the scientist” totally threw you under the bus. What a scumbag.

    This is not news to me. Hence my reference in the article to him ‘throwing me under the bus’.

  4. dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!" says

    In the US they’ve started sending out “settlement offers” instead of just the standard DMCA notice to your ISP. While they’re only asking for $30 per violation the settlement form is conspicuously missing any “non admission of guilt” clause so if you’re unwise enough to agree they not only have your name and address (instead of just your IP) but a legal statement admitting you’re a pirate. Of course they can’t go after you again for the violation you settled, but next time they catch you they may be asking for a lot more than $30.

  5. says

    So, let me get this straight- a law firm can go after you like this without working with the rights holder?

    Can the rights holder then go after you? It doesn’t seem fair to the accused if they could, but it also doesn’t seem fair for the rights holder that they couldn’t- someone else shouldn’t be able to remove your rights without even consulting you.

    That’s a totally messed up situation.

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