Watching pirated porn streams is not illegal says German government

Dealing with copyrighted material online has long been something of a legal minefield. Whatever your moral position on enjoying copyrighted movies, music, and other content without paying for it, there is usually little argument about whether or not it is actually illegal.

While downloading copyrighted movies from FTP servers, via BitTorrent, or using other means is widely regarded as breaking the law, things are not seen in quite such black and white terms when it comes to streaming content.

Sports fans will be aware that it is possible to tap into live streams of football matches that are being shown on pay-per-view channels. The same is true of pornographic content -- a field in which there is a vast amount of money to be made. Don't feel like paying to get your rocks off? Hunt around and you'll probably be able to find free access to a porno stream that would otherwise set you back a few dollars.

RedTube is a streaming video site, with a focus on "adult content", that found itself being taken to court by a team of lawyers representing porn producers. Copyright holders were upset that their content was being shared online through the site and lawyers duly issued cease and desist letters. The case rumbles on but there has been an interesting little tidbit thrown up. The German Ministry of Justice has said that the "viewing of a copyrighted stream without permission is not in itself an act of copyright infringement".

This appears to make a legal distinction between streaming content and downloading it -- one is legal, the other is illegal. But it is not the end of the story. The case is still to work its way higher into the legal system and the outcome is ultimately to be decided by the European Court. It's difficult to say what the result will be, but if streaming copyright content is deemed legal, it sets an interesting precedent that could have far-reaching consequences. Of course, there is still the question of whether the creation of the stream is legal, or whether the copyright permits potential mass viewing in this way. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

Does the ruling make sense to you? If you were the copyright holder -- of porn or other content -- would you be happy that your work could be streamed free of charge without the chance to prosecute those who view the material?

Photo Credit: SFerdon/Shutterstock

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