Help: I ​​was caught downloading illegally in Germany (2023)

We all have our reasons for turning to illegal downloading in Germany. For some it's about watching the latest HBO hit series, for others it's about getting your hands on a rare version of the 1991 Star Wars trilogy. Whatever it is, you might have gotten away with it in your home country. However, illegal downloading of copyrighted content in Germanyseverely condemned by lawand isoften enforced by private law firms sending cease and desist letters.

If you are reading these lines, you are probably holding oneWarningLetter from a German lawyer requesting payment of compensation. Don't Panic: This guide will answer the many questions you have right now.

Help: I ​​was caught downloading illegally in Germany (1)

Here iseverything you want to knowhow to react to a warning about illegal downloading of copyrighted content in Germany.

Caught Torrenting & Streaming in Germany: TL;DR

What follows is a long guide on the subject. Here are the key takeaways and action points.

  • When using torrent clients, uploading/sharing with other users on the same node is punishable.
  • Private practices have specializedin dealing with copyright infringement. They use special technology to identify you with the help of your ISP. This is allowed in Germany and not very regulated.
  • Not all warnings you receive are real. Some are just scams.First check the authenticity of the letter.
  • The letter will be very menacing, list big numbers and big consequences. This is pressure to pay immediately, no questions asked.
  • Never sign and pay immediately!
  • Use a insteadspecialized mediation serviceto get you out of this situation. They will help you reduce the fine and negotiate (in English). Lawyers are also an option, but it's usually more expensive and stressful.
  • Using a VPN in Germanyis usually a good idea to avoid this situation in the future.

Read on for more details and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.


Illegal downloads of copyrighted material in Germany – What you should know:

What am I really to blame for?

German laws on file sharingare quite strictClearly condemn any kind of file-sharing activity related to copyrighted content. While both download and upload are condemned by law, it is inReality is the upload part of the process, which is rewarded with a warning. By using services like torrent clients, you automatically share the file you download. Because of this, users of torrent and other P2P clients receive many letters from German lawyers.

Since April 2017, users of illegal streaming services (including the transmission of live events) can also get into trouble due to a decision by the European Court of Justice. It has established itself(Here) that users of such services are actually acting illegally. Unlike P2P, however, it isUsers of such streaming platforms are very difficult to identifyas IP addresses are often not stored long-term by these platforms, making enforcement unlikely. Only premium users can be easily identified.

On the document you may see a reference to the laws dealing with copyright infringement in Germany;Copyright Law” or “UrhG”. § 19a UrhG is illegal.

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Who is responsible and who has to pay?

German courts have determined thisThe owner of the Internet access is theoretically responsible for all misconduct on this network. You are responsible for securing it so that other people do not use it to download copyrighted content in Germany. This can cause tension if you live in a flat share and your name is not on the Internet provider's contract. In this case, the owner can "dump" the error on the real culprit, if necessary, to absolve him of all allegations.

How could they identify me and find my address?

Warning German law firms usually hirespecialized third-party services that scan P2P nodes and clients and record IP addresseswhich are currently being downloaded illegally in Germany. They then have the legal right to ask youInternet provider in Germanydisclose any information associated with that IP address. This is how they got your private data.

Again, this is why criminal prosecution is really that much harder to apply for users of illegal streaming services. IP addresses are not stored permanently on servers and if the police should request a list, then only after some time. However, watch out for premium users; Paying a fee on any of these platforms will definitely store your IP on the server, increasing the risk of being caught.

If you want to protect your traffic and use all services privately, you can use aVPN in Germanythat will hide everything from everyone else. You can useNordVPNfor example, which is often considered one of the best out there, especially since streaming works well with it and you connect up to 6 devices to one account (switch to English in the footer if needed).

Do they really have the right to ask so much? Can it really go to court?

There is no clear set of rules that shows violations. The character is completely up to you within a certain range. We'll see later how it's possible to trade it down a bit.Although they threaten to take this to court, it's relatively rare. It's mostly an argument to get you to pay quickly and without questions.

However, it is important to note the difference between the various fees mentioned in this document. There are fees for sending this warning notice, which is mentioned as a fix for their customers (more details on that later in the post). Also notethat a law passed in 2013 should limit the warning and lawyer's fees to €150 and €450 respectively.

Crime repairs in streaming cases are much lower, making them less profitable for law firms to pursue; The fees for legal claims remain the same as for P2P cases, but the fine per film can be as little as €5-10.

Is this a real German law firm and not a scam? Do they really work with the copyright holders?

Now this is a bit tricky, because it's true that some scam letters (e.g. from the non-existent law firm "Kroner & Colleagues") have been sent around and they are not authorized to represent the copyright owner.Most of the time, however, the warning for illegally downloading copyrighted content is genuineComing from a real law firm representing companies like Viacom, Sony, 20th Century Fox, etc.

Here are some law firms that send warning letters in Germany (hat tip
Auffenberg, Petzhold, Witte; Baumgarten & Brandt; Bindhart, Fiedler, Zerbe; CSR; Daniel Sebastian; Denecke Haxthausen & Partners; Fareds; Johannes Rubenach; Kornmeier & Patner; lihl; Lutz Schroeder; Marcus Meier; Mark Schiek; negele; Numann and Lang; Paul; Philip Marquort; Rainer Munderloh; quick; Reichelt, Klute, Assmann; Sasse and Patner; Schalast & Partner; Scheuermann, Westerhoff, Strittmatter; Schutt, Waetke; SKW Black; U+C; Vahrenwald & Kretschmer; Waldorf Frommer; WeSaveYourCopyrights; winter stone; Zimmerman & Decker.

How to recognize a fake warning for copyright infringement in Germany

Pay attention to the following signs, they can be clues. When in doubt, always consult a professional.

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  • You only receive an e-mail: This is also possible in another area of ​​law, illegal file sharing cases always come by post.
  • It doesn't come with a cease and desist letter: if it's all about money with obscure legal jargon, it's worthless,
  • Fictitious law firm or no contact information to be found.
  • A bank account outside of Germany.
  • The copyrighted material is neither expressly mentioned nor described, nor is its client clearly named.

Rule number 1: Don't panic and don't send anything back

What is this declaration of approval and what should I do with it?

Along with the warning to establish your identity and content is another document entitled "cease and desist“. this is thatGerman equivalent of a cease and desist declarationthat the law firm wants you to sign to prove that you feel guilty about the allegations. Do not sign this document and do not send it back! This would give you more legal basis and you would have to pay.

How are the fees structured? What is the legal basis behind this?

Law firms in Germany are legally entitled to claim damages for their clients for the violation of rights. The total number you may see on your letter is based on 3 different legal concepts:

  • Costs due to the injunction (injunctive relief)
  • Cost based on actual compensation itself (claims for damages)
  • Cost based on processing fees associated with processing your case (claims for reimbursement of expenses)

Assuming that a signed cease-and-desist letter prevents further violations by the perpetrator,as a rule, the law firm will only assert claims for damages and reimbursement.

Together, these usually amount to around €1,000 per file. The processing fees are
calculated on the basis of the severance payment and cease and desist compensation and is also regulated in the Lawyers' Fees Act (Attorneys' Remuneration Act, RVG). As a rule, the processing fees typically end up in a range between €100 & €300.

Here is an example based on real practicesfrom a reputable law firm. In most cases:

  • The total is €935.8.
  • 700€ as compensation.
  • 235€ are processing fees.

Now tell me: What can I do about this warning?

There are several choices you can take at this point and I think it depends on how brave you are and how well you handle what may be a nerve-wracking situation.

1- Pay immediately

Let's be honest: these letters are an attempt to deter you and urge you to pay the full amount. This is all the more impressive for a foreigner who does not fully understand German. YYou should not panic and pay without asking questions because there is room for negotiation. Finally, you must remember that it is not the government that is sending you these letters; The fine is not set by law.

2- Do nothing

While it might not seem like the mature and grown-up thing to curl up in a ball and hope it goes away, this reaction might still have a few arguments in favor of it.Anyone who reacts in this way is basically relying on the weaknesses of the system; These German law firms are very busy, as you can see. you sendHundreds of thousands of warnings per yearto the average Joe for illegally downloading movies in Germany. They know full well that they won't be able to manually process every individual case, so they may not be able to follow up easily if you don't respond to their first warning.

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Then again, there's also a good chance you're among the chosen few for whom it doesn't go away. If they follow up, additional legal fees may apply and it may be enforced. That's a risk you take if you choose this option.

Doing nothing is a viable option, but it will often backfire

3- Hire a lawyer

They're coming at you with legal guns? Then maybe it's time to arm yourself and contact an attorney. Judging by the cases I've heard around me and on forums on the Internet,This seems to be a popular option. Sure, it's not cheap, but again, you could save hundreds of dollars by negotiating a cheaper fine or not paying everything at all.

What an attorney will do is send a modified cease and desist letter on your behalf, basically saying you're sorry about what happened but you still don't acknowledge that you're guilty and that you won't be in the future will do.

The fees for this with German lawyers specializing in copyright infringement can vary, but you will have to pay the costs in advance without any guarantee.

4- Use an intermediary service

All options listed above are valid and should be carefully considered. However, you have a disadvantage: You invest a lot of money, time or stress without having any certainty about the legal outcome of your case.

Another possibility would be to Contact an exchangeas provided bywarning help. Such a platform specializes in reducing the amount of damage. They work together with experienced mediators and lawyers
this area of ​​law. Their offer is really well tailored to foreigners:

  • They offer this service digitally, 100% in English.
  • It depends on success. This means that you only pay if your case is successfully and permanently settled.
  • They review your case for free.
  • Your fee is transparent (maximum 30% of the total savings on the original claim amount).

It's about finding the right strategy for you, whether it's negotiating a settlement with the law firm or fighting back with an attorney. Since it is success-based and the first review is free, you can still choose one of the other options listed here after reviewing your case. It's worth trying out by using theform on the home page.

I wish you luck in fighting the odds. I hope this post helped you understand your situation. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.


Also, if you want to use your Internet access as you please, don't forget that you can hide your traffic completely with a good VPNNordVPN.Considered one of the best on the market, it is safe and easy to use and is also suitable for this type of use.

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Torrenting Warning Letter FAQ

I didn't know the rules in Germany and used a torrent client/streaming website! What are the chances of getting caught and getting a letter?”

There are no rules defining the likelihood that you could be caught, nor a way to indicate the delay in which you may receive this letter. Only time can tell.

I used another service to download content (Gdrive, WeTransfer, a random platform, etc.), what are the risks?

This post is about torrenting and streaming. I cannot answer any other means or technologies. Current tools available to law firms to track data transfers are currently only applicable to torrent nodes and streams.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only on what to do if caught illegal file sharing in Germany. It does not replace advice from a specialist lawyer. Please make sure you fully understand your situation before taking any action. Safe is safe <3 <3 <3.


Also a big thank you to Oliver from theFrankfurter Expat-Blog,its contribution to the legality of streaminghelped me refine some details of this article. If you live near or near Frankfurt check out his blog, it's a good read to discover the city.

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What happens if you are caught downloading illegally? ›

Federal law (Title 17, United States Code, Sections 501 and 506) provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, rental, or digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings. Criminal penalties can be as high as five years in prison or $250,000 in fines.

What is the fine for illegal download in Germany? ›

Downloading movies in Germany is risky. Pirates in Germany can get big fines: 900€ to 1,000€ on average. But if you do it correctly, you can pirate movies without getting in trouble.

Is it illegal to download files in Germany? ›

German laws concerning file-sharing are pretty strict and clearly condemn any kind of file sharing activity related to copyrighted content. While both download and upload are condemned by law, it's in reality the uploading part of the process that will be rewarded with a warning letter.

What is the fine for illegal streaming in Germany? ›

Fines for violating the copyright laws are currently limited to €1,000 for first-time offenders and the lawyer's fees will set you back a further €150.

How likely is it to get caught torrenting? ›

The prosecution of torrent users has been sporadic. The chances of actually going to court or having to pay a settlement are pretty slim, but the penalties can be extremely high. The frequency of copyright holders suing torrenters for copyright infringement peaked in the late 2000s.

How long can you go to jail for Torrenting? ›

If you're torrenting illegally, your ISP will send you a warning letter and probably start throttling your connection speeds. If you're caught repeatedly and found guilty in legal proceedings, you could be subject to criminal penalties including a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Can you go to jail for downloading pirated content? ›

A civil lawsuit could hold you responsible for thousands of dollars in damages. Criminal charges may leave you with a felony record, accompanied by up to five years of jail time and fines up to $250,000.

What happens if you dont pay a fine in Germany? ›

If you ignore the fine, they will give it to a collection agency. The fine get more expensive. If you still don't to pay, you can go to jail.

How do I check my fines in Germany? ›

Is there a way to check if I have a traffic fine? Unfortunately, there isn't. Germany has no system in place to check if a vehicle has any impending fines attached to it.

Can illegal streaming be traced? ›

Along with security services such as GCHQ, commercial organisations such as ISPs can quickly detect if you are using illegal streaming or download services. Individuals known to be using illegal services will initially be contacted by their ISP with a written warning to desist from the illegal behaviour.

Is downloading VPN illegal in Germany? ›

Yes, VPNs are completely legal in Germany. Currently, no legislation exists against VPN usage within the country. This means you can use one without having to worry about any legal consequences, but there are some exceptions. If you conduct illicit activities behind a VPN, you're still breaking the law.

Is it illegal to download PDF in Germany? ›

It is illegal in Germany (and I think in other EU countries as well) to download anything you don't have the rights to. Scientific e-book, crime novel e-book, music or latest film doesn't make a difference. Downloading it form source who don't have the necessary distribution rights, is itself a copy right infringement.

What happens if you get caught streaming movies illegally? ›

Where you get in trouble criminally is when you download the content or play it in public. Aside from criminal prosecution is the civil side of unauthorized streaming where the copyright holder could very well sue you and hold you liable to pay a hefty fine.

Is watching pirated movies legal in Germany? ›

Both streaming and what's known as torrenting are illegal, punishable with fines or even heavier punishments, if you're considered a distributor.

Does a VPN actually protect you when torrenting? ›

Will a VPN Hide My Torrenting From My ISP or the Police? The short answer is that, yes, a VPN can shield your online activities from your ISP. It should also make it harder for someone on the web to identify particular traffic as belonging to you.

Can you go to jail for torrenting in USA? ›

No, you do not go to jail for torrenting or using BitTorrent. Torrenting is just a file copy protocol which moves files around the internet efficiently. However, you could get arrested for downloading licensed content without the appropriate permissions.

Should I use a VPN when torrenting? ›

A VPN is not required for torrents, but it is recommended. When using a VPN, your traffic is encrypted and routed through a server in a location of your choosing. This prevents your ISP from seeing what you're downloading and limits their ability to throttle your bandwidth or penalize you for torrenting.

Is torrenting a federal crime? ›

Yes, downloading files through P2P (Peer to Peer) is legal in the United States. BitTorrent technology and protocols are not illegal, but the content you download may be. You can find many legitimate torrents. Some content creators use P2P file-sharing to distribute their digital work efficiently.

What is the best VPN for torrenting? ›

The best VPNs for torrenting – our detailed list
  1. NordVPN – all-around best torrenting VPN. Based in: ...
  2. Surfshark – one of the cheapest VPNs that allow torrenting. ...
  3. Atlas VPN – cheap torrent friendly VPN. ...
  4. ExpressVPN – swift VPN for torrenting. ...
  5. CyberGhost – torrenting VPN packed with features. ...
  6. PureVPN – decent torrenting VPN.
Feb 7, 2023

How hard is it to get caught pirating? ›

Downloading copyrighted material whether for personal use and/or distribution (seeding) is illegal, as is merely streaming copyrighted material and you can be prosecuted for it. The likelyhood of you getting caught though is still slim. Even if they knew you were doing it, you'd get a warning from your ISP.

How much can you get fined for pirating? ›

Penalties for Piracy

Maximum penalties for misdemeanor copyright infringement are one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Maximum penalties for felony copyright infringement generally are: Commercial advantage or private financial gain: five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

What happens if you get caught using pirated software? ›

“United States Copyright Act. Holds someone guilty of illegal reproduction of software subject to civil damages of up to $100,000 per title infringed, and criminal penalties, including fines of as much as $250,000 per title infringed and imprisonment of up to five years.”

Is Travelling without a ticket a criminal offence in Germany? ›

You may be surprised to know that, in Germany, riding public transport without a ticket - so called Schwarzfahren - is a criminal offence which can lead to hefty fines and, in extreme cases, up to one year in prison.

Is paying a fine a criminal record? ›

The Criminal Procedure Act clearly states that the payment of an admission of guilt fine will be the same as being convicted and sentenced in court. This means that an accused will have a criminal record as it will be captured by the clerk of the magistrate's court in the criminal record for admission of guilt fines.

Do you get a criminal record for not paying a fine? ›

Penalties and fines excluded from checks

A criminal record check doesn't include: a fixed penalty charge. a parking fine. some motoring offences.

How do I pay a German fine? ›

To pay your fine, just take the ticket into your local bank and they will generate a direct deposit from your account to the issuing authority. A penalty order (Bußgeldbescheid) is issued if the initial violation carries a fine €40 or more or if a warning ticket is not paid.

What happens if you run a red light in Germany? ›

Crossing the road when it's a red light - jaywalking - is illegal in Germany and you can face a fine of between €5 and €10 if you're caught.

How many points until your license is suspended in Germany? ›

In Germany, once a driver accumulates four to five points, he or she will receive a warning, along with information about the points system. With six to seven points, a driver must attend two 90-minute seminars within three months of notification. With eight or more points, the driver's license is revoked.

What are some illegal streaming sites? ›

This short list covers some of the most popular today:
  • The Pirate Bay.
  • uTorrent.
  • MediaBox HD.
  • Roja Directa.
  • 123Movies.
  • Simple IPTV Services.
  • Vumoo.
  • Chitram TV.
Jul 8, 2022

Is it illegal to download movies for personal use? ›

Most songs and movies that appear on download or file–sharing websites are copyrighted. It is illegal to download any music or movies that are copyrighted. Downloading or file-sharing a copyrighted song or movie could expose you to a lawsuit for money damages that could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

How common is illegal streaming? ›

The most common type of content consumed in 2018 was TV shows (23%), closely followed by sports (21%) and downloading software (20%). Overall, the same amount of content was accessed illegally in 2017 as it was in 2018 (25%).
What are people illegally downloading?
Type of contentTV
7 more columns

Can you get fined for torrenting in Germany? ›

Yes! Torrenting is illegal in Germany, just like streaming. There are instances of imposing heavy fines on those who dare to download their favorite movies. The German government strictly warns its German citizens to not download any copyrighted files such as major theatrical movie releases, TV shows, and pornography.

Can you get caught using VPN? ›

Police can't track live, encrypted VPN traffic, but if they have a court order, they can go to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and request connection or usage logs. Since your ISP knows you're using a VPN, they can direct the police to them.

Can you get in trouble for VPN? ›

Yes, VPNs are legal in most countries around the world, including the US, Canada, and most of Europe. However, you might risk heavy fines or even imprisonment for using a VPN in a country that bans it, for example, North Korea or Iraq.

Is downloading pictures from Google illegal in Germany? ›

Virtually every image you find using Google's image search tool is copyrighted by the creator or some other owner. So it is not legal to use these without permission, even for personal use. Are Google's "free to use" images actually free?

Why is Torrenting illegal in Germany? ›

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.

Can you go to jail for illegally downloading games? ›

Unwanted attention from law enforcement. Finally, it's important to remember that using pirated gaming content is illegal. Depending on the jurisdiction in which you live, it could lead to fines or even jail time, if use of cracked software can be traced back.

Has anyone gone to jail for downloading movies? ›

George Bridi, a 52-year-old former disk jockey, had already spent 17-1/2 months in jail since his arrest in Cyprus over his work for the Sparks Group, which prosecutors called an international online piracy group. Bridi pleaded guilty in November to a copyright infringement conspiracy charge.

How can I download illegally without getting caught? ›

Use bit torrent anonymously
  1. Sign up to a no-logging VPN service. Check out 'What is the Best VPN Service? ...
  2. Download and install TorBrowser onto your device. ...
  3. Set up a Torrent file somewhere on your computer to store anything you download.
  4. Download and install a torrent client to enable you to download.
Jan 11, 2019

What is the punishment for Internet piracy? ›

What Are the Penalties for Piracy? Piracy is punished quite severely under U.S.C. 81. Most overt acts of piracy come with a mandatory minimum of life imprisonment, while most others carry a maximum of 10 years in prison—not to mention hefty fines in many cases.

Do people get caught for piracy? ›

Consequences range from nothing to a fine and even to a lawsuit from the copyright holder that can cost you thousands. You can even go to prison.

Is piracy a federal crime? ›

In fact, piracy is a federal crime. These felony charges can land you in prison for a year or longer, depending upon the circumstances of your individual case. Although at first glance, piracy might seem like a victimless crime, it's still considered theft.

How long do you go to jail for software piracy? ›

Under the Cybercrime Law, acquiring any digital copy of any copyrighted material is now punishable by a fine between Php 200,000 (US$4,470) to Php 500,000 (US$11,175) and six to 20 years in prison.

Is piracy illegal in USA? ›

Digital pirates illegally copy and sell or even distribute for free these popular items. This piracy has serious consequences for the American economy. All U.S. copyright law flows from Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution.

What is the most illegally downloaded movie? ›

Movies with the most illegal downloads worldwide in May 2019
CharacteristicNumber of downloads in millions
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)5.29
Captain Marvel (2019)4.09
Aquaman (2018)3.85
Shazam! (2019)3.66
1 more row
Jan 5, 2023

Can you go to jail for watching movies illegally? ›

If you're simply watching a stream of unlicensed content, you're not technically breaking the law. Where it becomes a crime is if you download the movie or show, or host a stream yourself.

How much can you get sued for for downloading movies? ›

People who illegally downloaded material -- not for commercial use -- could be forced to pay damages of up to $5,000, according to Canada's Copyright Modernization Act. And users found to have illegally downloaded movies to make money could face fines of up to $20,000.

Can my downloads be tracked using a VPN? ›

A VPN encrypts and conceals your entire online traffic. It hides your IP address, location, and all digital activities, including downloads, streaming, and gaming activities. A VPN hides your browsing history from your ISP, websites, online snoopers, and even the government.

Do I need to use VPN when torrenting? ›

Should I always use a VPN for torrenting? We always recommend using a VPN for torrenting. A VPN encrypts your IP address and prevents your Internet Service Provider from being able to monitor your Internet activity. Torrenting without a VPN means your Internet Service Provider will be able to see your online activity.

Does VPN protect torrenting? ›

Is torrenting safe with a VPN? Yes, torrenting with a VPN is completely safe, if you know and trust the P2P network you are using. Some people use P2P networks and torrent sites to spread malicious files, so you should always have your anti-malware program activated when you're torrenting to protect yourself as well.


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