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Illegal file sharing offers - an often unknown risk

If you use an illegal file-sharing service, this will lead to expensive warnings or even criminal consequences. Therefore, you should always check in advance whether the person sharing content such as music, movies, or literature owns the corresponding rights to the content.

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How do file-sharing networks work
Basically, file-sharing is allowed
Rights to the content are decisive
Streaming services as illegal file-sharing offers in the background
Formal notice as a consequence of the use of illegal file-sharing offers
Protection in the case of multiple users of an Internet connection
Avoid an illegal file-sharing offer

How do file-sharing networks work

In a file-sharing network, users share files with other users. To do this, they use file-sharing programs. These often work via a peer-2-peer connection and directly access the shared content of all computers within the P2P network.

IWithin this network, all users make their shared content available to others. At the same time, they help themselves to the shared content of the other network participants, and thus everyone becomes a user and a provider.

Basically, file-sharing is allowed

File sharing is not prohibited and is part of general communication in many companies. Information of various kinds is shared within a defined group of users with the help of file sharing.

Even Dropbox counts as a file-sharing platform on which Internet users share a wide variety of content with others.

Whether it is illegal file-sharing or legal sharing depends on the content and the associated copyrights. Even Dropbox can become an unlawful file-sharing platform.

Rights to the content are decisive

Under certain circumstances, you may share file content with other users, which is the case if you own the copyrights to the content or if the rights holder gives their express permission to share or allow others to use it.

However, this is usually not the case on music or movie file sharing sites. Therefore, in most cases, file-sharing services are illegal file-sharing services.

You only own the copyrights if you produced music, movies, photos, individual texts, or eBooks.

Streaming services as illegal file-sharing offers in the background

However, streaming services like Popcorn Time are problematic. The popular and free alternative to Netflix works via a BitTorrent client, and this program establishes a P2P connection and thus becomes a file-sharing platform.

While the video or movie is streaming, the program shares the content with other users, applying to the service of Cuevana Storm. They offer the software on their website as a free streaming service and alternative to Netflix. The note that the streaming happens via torrent links is not very informative, especially for non-specialists.

However, Cuevana Storm is not a pure streaming service due to establishing a P2P connection, but a BitTorrent program. The users also participate in illegal file-sharing here.

Formal notice as a consequence of the use of illegal file-sharing offers

Illegal file sharing via file-sharing networks is punishable by law. Law firms specializing in protecting copyrights help injured artists and companies obtain their rights. The means of the first choice is a formal notice.

The demands on the illegal users are high because, in addition to claims for damages amounting to several hundred euros, the warned user bears the legal costs.

This results in an amount of up to 1,000 euros. Additional protection against further illegal activities is provided by signing a "cease-and-desist declaration with a penalty clause" and all associated legal consequences.

Protection in the case of multiple users of an Internet connection

Not only users are liable, but also the owners of an Internet connection. However, the connection owner can take preventive measures to exclude the so-called "Interferer" liability.

An "Interferer" is the person who provides the Internet connection and does not take precautions to prevent illegal activities.

Suitable and effective measures are filter lists and blocks. This way, you prevent access to corresponding file-sharing and streaming services directly via the router settings.

Owners of a vacation home who provide their guests with WLAN and companies with public WLAN should set up a unique and secured guest network.

This way, you protect the private network and track the guests' activities. Additional filters or locks also help to protect against illegal activities.

Avoid an illegal file-sharing offer

With file-sharing programs for downloading music or movies, users often violate copyrights. But the unauthorized use of photos or sharing of eBooks is also becoming increasingly common.

Lawyers specializing in intellectual property rights protect companies from the financial losses caused by these sharing offers.

We would be happy to provide you with information on protecting yourself from these copyright infringements. Call us or contact us by e-mail.

Do you have any questions or would you like to make an appointment?

Make an appointment now!

Image source: © Datenschutz-Stockfoto / panthermedia.net

Marco Bennek
I started working as a lawyer in 2006 and have been advising clients in competition and trademark law for more than 10 years. Since June 2015 I have been a specialist attorney for industrial property rights and since May 2013 a partner in the firm of HELMKE Attorneys at Law and Tax Advisors and Patent Attorneys. I studied law in Hamburg, Madrid, and Wellington (New Zealand) and hold a Master of Laws (LL.M.).
Rechtsanwalt Marco Bennek
Lawyer Marco Bennek – trademark law, copyright, competition law and IT law in Hamburg
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