Germany limits piracy penalties

Germany has limited individual piracy penalties to about $1,300 a pop. (source). On one side, I think that’s a reasonable penalty for stealing a song or a movie. On the other hand, it isn’t if there are procedural hurdles to actually being able to enforce even that low amount. I don’t know German civil procedure, so no idea on that.

10 Responses to Germany limits piracy penalties

  1. An important note is that’s $1,300 per offender, not per song shared. It’s easy for a teenager to go online and download hundreds of songs, resulting in an absurd penalty that can reach 7 figures.

    Here in the U.S. we limit that to $150,000 per song shared — an absurd amount not commensurate with the damages to the industry or the ability of the infringer to ever pay. It is a tool for the industry to use to bully those accused into submission, even if they are not culpable.

  2. $1,300 per offender seems a bit too light. So someone steals 25,000 songs and illegally redistributes them, and the penalty is $1,300?

    • krautlaw says:

      The Hollywood Reporter article isn’t accurate. The new German law mentioned in the article doesn’t apply to damages or fines (neither criminal law fines nor civil law fines). Criminal law sanctions including imprisonment and fines are still in force (cf. Article 106 et seqq. of the German Copyright Act).

      Simply put, the new law is (the second attempt) of German lawmakers to stop Prenda-style extortion schemes which were widely successful in the last years in Germany. Imagine Prenda Law in a legal system where courts hold subscribers of internet connections liable for copyright infringements that were committed through their internet connections in nearly every case (you better protect access to your WLAN over here).

      According to German law the party that doesn’t prevail in a dispute has “to bear the costs of the legal dispute, in particular any costs incurred by the opponent, to the extent these costs were required in order to bring an appropriate action or to appropriately defend against an action brought by others.” Roughly the same principles apply to out of court disputes.

      The amount of these costs (attorney fees, court fees etc) depends on the value of the dispute which quickly reaches higher sums in copyright cases, e.g. first instance court proceedings in a file sharing case involving 10 MP3 music files will easily amount to 6,000 $. If the defendant loses he will at least have to pay these costs (add a few thousand more if the court rules that you owe damages, too). Already due to these costs of litigation it is not advisable for a defendant to litigate file sharing cases before a German court. Defendants will rather seek an out of court settlement.

      Combine this with a bunch of thuggish lawyers who coerce subscribers into expensive settlements and the new law becomes sensible.

  3. Adam says:

    I am surprised that this “Legal” blog uses the word “steals” for copyright infringement. Only in certain extreme circumstances is it a criminal offence & those circumstances are not covered by the proposed German changes. This cap relates to a infringement of civil rights granted under copyright. It is not theft.

    • Another crybaby with the EFF talking points guide in hand.

      • andrews says:

        Another crybaby

        I dunno about that. I had learned to think of theft as obtaining or using the property of another (with intent)

        This does not fit well into that model, because the victim still has the property taken. There’s an obvious deprivation of income for the owner of the intellectual property, but that does not quite equate to theft.

        Often we think of the RIAA and their ilk as rent-seekers, and that might be a good analogy. I own rental property. When a tenant does not pay the rent, I cannot prosecute him for theft, though I can certainly bring an action for the back rent.

      • 1L who got an A- on his crimlaw final and is frustrated that no one cares about his nuanced understanding of the MPC?

  4. madcynic says:

    Actually, the fun part is that in Germany, -downloading- of a song or video in itself is not an offense, but making it available is. Hence the act of acquiring the song (what might be called stealing) is not the issue. (Naturally, using a filesharing program renders that distinction moot in most cases.)

  5. Brian S. says:

    I think that Germany is right to limit it, but I do agree 1,300 is a bit low.

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