In one of our lasts posts one of our bloggers Mirella talked about GEMA and copyrighted music. This got me thinking.
It is not only music that’s copyrighted but all media. Still the majority of us watches movies and series online on a regular basis – we stream. However what is the legal situation behind those sites and the users of those sites aka us?
It’s the 8th of June, 2011 the popular german Video-On-Demand-Website Kino.to is closed down, taken off the Internet and the suspected men behind the site are taken into custody. The site is admits the 50 most visited Websites in Germany. According to the operating authorities almost 4 million people visited the site each day!
The business model of this site was based on advertisement, which sometimes included pornographic content and was estimated to bring in millions of Euros in revenue until closing of the site.
Now almost one year later most of the figure heads of kino.to have been convicted:
- 2nd of December, 2011
The 33 year old web-designer of the site is sentenced to two and a half years in Prison. After being taken into custody he makes an extensive confession during which he admits to have earned up to 190000 Euros through online advertisement.
- 7th of December 2011
The administrator, 27, is sentenced to 3 years in prison after having confessed to publishing 23.000 pirated copies of movies on the internal server.
- 15th of December 2011
A man from North Rhine-Westphalia who admitted to uploading thousands of pirated copies on to “filehoster” after being paid for it, is given a prison sentence of one year and nine month on probation.
- 22nd of December 2011:
A 47-year-old key figure faces 3 years and five month in prison. He’s supposed to have earned several hundred thousands over the course of 2008 – 2011 by renting storage space in foreign countries and charging people for fraudulent subscriptions.
- 11th of April 2012
The chief-programer, Bastian P., who was said to be the second most important figure head of Kino.to, is sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison. The district court in Leipzig found the 29 year old guilty of severe copyright infringement on several occasions.
- Since 7th of May 2012
At the moment the alleged leader 39 year old Dirk B. is on trial for breaching copyright laws in about 1.1 million cases. Contrary to his accomplices he has yet to give a full confession. He is said to have earned millions through kino.to. In the event of an conviction it is possible will have to face a prison sentence of up to 15 years, news agency dapd reported.
But it is not only Kino.to which is being targeted by the authorities. In the USA the founders of Megaupload are in custody as well. US attorneys accuse them of breaches of the copyright law. They face the same punishments as Dirk B. and his business associates.
In Germany Movie – companies and lobbies like “die Gesellschaft zur Verfolgung von Urheberrechtsverletzungen” GVU which roughly translates to “corporation for the persecution of breaches in copyright” insist that these sites are against the law and kino.to has at least be held accountable as a troublemaker.
When it comes to the topic of copyright infringement, most of expert will readily agree that the actual hosts of the link can be legally prosecuted . Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of simply offering the links and streaming.
Whereas some are convinced that it is illegal, others maintain that technically it is in a legal gray area.
The problem is that the laws do not take these cases into account, because they were drawn up before any of of this technology was ever invented. Consequently the legality is a bit shaky.
Kino.to for example does not host their own streams, but mostly offers links to the matching files on different streamhosts. Conclusively if the user ran the standard settings on his PC he would not be able to save or further distribute the files. Therefore the defendants of kino.to contend that the people that should be held responsible are the ones that uploaded the actual movie. On the other hand kino.to did in fact host some supplier like DivX or FLV, which offered the possibility of downloading and saving.
Other groups complain
” How is it possible that harmless Websitedistributer are treated as if on eye level with murderers and rapists?
What happened to our country? What happened to our freedom?”
Nontheless Tagesschau stated that these sites don’t only harm Hollywood and Cinemas but also videolibraries.
According to Tagesschau shutting down kino.to has raised the numbers of videos being leased by 29% for the following weeks and by up to 18% for the entire month.
Because the picture kind of has a point I tried digging up some hard facts on piracy and the actual estimated damages caused by it. Included is a link with all the statistics but I would like to present to you my 3 personal shockers:
- 70% of online users find nothing wrong in online piracy
- Movies are the second most pirated itemon the web (35.2%)
- 12.5 billions $ are lost every year due to piracy on the Internet
Now the law gets even more obscured when it comes to the people actually using these sites, so basically every young adult who owns a Laptop or PC. So to everyone reading this: Don’t be scared at the moment you are relatively safe.
Up until now there have not been any law suits regarding the users of kino.to and only a few concerning other sites. However there are those like Respect Copyrights and one of the judges involved in the trial against kino.to, who claim that streamers are offenders and demand their conviction. The fact though is that as a user you are in a legal gray area. Streaming leads to the storage of those files in the memory of our PC, people argue that this does not qualify as a illegal copy under current law. Others contradict that this temporary brief imprint in the chace can be considered an illegal copy.
Hence “SpiegelOnline” correctly states that.
“When looking at stream services the legal position is not as obvious as GVU and Respect Copyrights want us to believe”
Still IT-Advocates strongly advise against it and warn:
“In the future users of illegal streams cannot count on courtesy anymore.”
In the end it is kind of like winning the lottery, only the other way around. It is pure luck whether you get caught and fined. There might be a greater legal threat to you if you use a premium account which you have to pay for.
The truth is the authorities do not have the human capacity to follow every single user and since just viewing is not necessarily illegal this argument circulates back to the concept of what do we “posses”?! In a world where we can virtually stream and stream virtually everything at almost any time without any difficulties in full quality has downloading become obsolete?
The main differences between downloading and streaming is the question of distribution. If you posses a file you can give it to your friends. However is that not basically the same as sending your friends one of the thousands link circulating on the web? The question we have to answer:
Has possessing the way to a file become the same as owning the actual file nowadays?
Of course the answer to this question might make a lot of us -yours truly included- a little squeamish. We like being able to listen and watch anything we want while calming our consciences with the idea that we’re only streaming – we’re happy citizens of the moral gray area.
What we need to realize is that using this logic it would actually be okay for a person to have the link to a child pornography site on their PC, since from a legal point of view they would not posses any child porn. To make it even worse technically it would not be a crime to share the link to this file with others.
Does that really sound okay to you?
Of course watching a movie is different and we can try to put our crimes in relative terms but in the end it is the same principle!
So we all need to think about what seems right to us and make a choice! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying stop streaming! It’s as horrible a crime as possessing child pornography! But I am trying to get everyone to own up to what they are doing! Stream for all I care but don’t try to deny that you’re doing something illegal – leave gray village and move to white or black town!
In this case for once we should avoid the golden middle and choose a side, which we can advocate for!