Using the driest possible legalese, the Urmann and Colleagues (U+C) firm announced on its website on Tuesday that from September 1, visitors to their site would find a list of people who had been involved in disputes over illegal porn internet downloads.
The firm, based in the southern German town of Regensburg, is one of the country’s biggest copyright law firms and represents a number of pornographers.
The new statement suggests it is poised to go after people who pirate pornography, by sending out thousands of cease-and-desist notices and compensation demands.
“As legal representative of its clients, the firm U+C warns owners of internet connections who have violated copyright,” the firm said in a statement to Der Spiegel magazine. “These clients include companies from the pornography industry who believe their copyright has been violated.”
Specifically, this means file-sharing, or as U+C puts it, “the unauthorized downloading of copyright-protected works combined with the simultaneous offering of that work by opening one’s hard drive to other internet users.”
In 2007 the German Constitutional Court ruled that it was legal for law firms to publish the names of potential opponents to advertise their services – though in the case the court considered this was meant for companies rather than private individuals.
But other legal experts have questioned whether publishing personal details of suspected file-sharers would be legal.
The weekly Wochenblatt newspaper said U+C had the names of 150,000 people on its files who have been sent warnings for breach of copyright. But the paper also says that “touchy cases” will be published first. The paper says that church rectories, police stations, and the embassies of Arab countries protected by diplomatic immunity could be on the list.
The U+C has refused to talk about which or how many internet users it intends to “out”.