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Germany has gained notoriety for its strict stance on torrenting. Users face hefty fines and potential jail time for sharing pirated content. The strict laws have worked. Fewer than 2% of Germans admit to downloading copyrighted content. In nearby Bulgaria, 27% of the population uses BitTorrent software.
Is File-Sharing Technology Legal in Germany?
Peer to Peer file-sharing still offers a way to obtain free or open-source digital content, and many Germans rely on it to find all kinds of media.
As with most regions in the world, Germany allows citizens to use file-sharing technology. BitTorrent clients and protocols remain legal when downloading legally distributed content.
Which Kind of Torrenting is not Allowed?
File sharing becomes illegal when you choose to share copyrighted content. German copyright law differentiates between downloading and uploading pirated content.
While the courts condemn both actions, uploading a pirated TV show or movie increases your risk of receiving an Abmahnung notice. Most of the users who receive these notices uploaded illegally obtained digital content. If you plan on downloading shows or movies, you may find yourself in the same situation.
When you use a torrent manager, such as uTorrent, you start downloading parts of the file from seeders. As you probably know, you are also seeding at the same time. That’s the basis of P2P.
While you can stop or limit seeding, some torrent trackers may kick you off if you do not maintain a minimum download/upload ratio. With BitTorrent technology, you are inevitably going to seed, even if just a bit.
Lawyers May Send Cease and Desist Notices
Receiving a cease and desist notice from a law firm is one of the most common consequences of illegal torrenting in Germany.
People caught sharing copyrighted material may receive one of these notices informing them that they need to pay a fine or risk a criminal trial. The amount often reaches hundreds of Euros. However, the sending of these letters has received backlash.
Some of the law agencies sending the letters do not have permission to act on behalf of the copyright holder. Unethical lawyers are exploiting the system and attempting to extort money from BitTorrent users. Some users have also claimed to receive warning letters despite never using torrent software.
While some users have received scam letters, most of the notices come from legitimate law firms. They represent major studios such as Fox, Sony, and Viacom.
In Germany, none of the cases have gone to court. As of right now, the threatening letters remain the only action taken against people found torrenting illegal content.
Law Firms May Send a Follow-up Document
The initial warning letter is the Abmahnung, which is similar to a DMCA notice. It warns that the law firm will take legal action if the user does not pay a settlement. Many people pay the fine immediately, while others choose to do nothing.
If you do not respond to the Abmahnung, they may send a follow-up document called the Unterlassungserklärung (cease and desist) notice. It threatens legal action and asks you to sign and return the document.
Signing the document is an admission of guilt. While these cases have not made it to court, admitting your guilt would give the lawyers the evidence needed to win a court case.
German law firms send hundreds of thousands of these letters each year. The lawyers understand that the majority will not respond to the Abmahnung, which is why they follow up with the Unterlassungserklärung.
Don’t Fall for Scam Letters
Do not automatically pay the fine without learning more about the source. Find out who sent the letter and whether they have the authority to take legal action against file-sharers. Perform an Internet search on the company in question to verify the authenticity of the letter.
You then have the choice of paying the fine or not, depending on what your research shows you. Some people find it easier to pay for it instead of dealing with the stress of further legal issues. That’s why scam letters are so profitable.
How to Stay Safe While Torrenting in Germany
Despite the risks of file-sharing, users in Germany have ways to increase their safety. As mentioned, unethical agencies sometimes target innocent netizens. Remember to learn more about the law entity before paying the fine.
The next step for avoiding legal problems in Germany is installing a VPN software. It helps protect your privacy when browsing the Internet and torrenting. Instead of seeing your IP address, anyone watching the tracker sees the IP of the VPN server.
Best VPNs for BitTorrent in Germany
When looking for a VPN for torrents, pay attention to servers and extra features. The best options include tools like a kill switch and fast servers nearby.
We have tested many VPN providers; these are our recommended softwares for downloading torrents in Germany.
- Many specialized P2P servers in Europe
- Comprehensive security features for safe torrenting
- Company located in a country without data retention laws
- Optimized torrent servers in close proximity
- Unique and valuable feature set for torrenting
- Competitive pricing and excellent value for money
- Supports P2P and torrenting on select servers
- Robust security measures to protect user privacy
- One of the cheapest, but reliable options
Torrenting in Germany Is Risky
Torrenting in Germany remains a murky legal area. The ones caught downloading illegal movies or shows may receive cease and desist notices from law agencies. Some people receive these letters without even downloading anything.
The notices appear threatening and often demand that the accused pay a fine. Many users pay the fine and move on. However, none of these warnings have led to prosecution in Germany. Before settling for anything, verify the authenticity of the claim and the law firm.
You can also take steps to avoid receiving a notice. If you decide to stick with torrenting, use a VPN service to hide your activity.