German 'porn pirates' to be named

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A German law firm that has been pursuing net pirates says it is going to begin naming some of those accused.

On 1 September, Urmann plans to publish the names of individuals whose computers have been identified as having downloaded pornography.

It said reports that it was going to target police officers and vicars were not correct.

Initially it said it would name individuals who had downloaded a lot of content.

Urmann has been sending letters to alleged pirates since 2006. It declined to say how many letters it had sent or how many names it would publish.

Dangerous

The firm offers those that it contacts the chance to pay a one-off fee of around 650 euros ($815, £513) to recompense the copyright holder.

Under German law, solicitors are allowed to publish the names of those accused by their clients.

Michael Forrester, a solicitor from Kuits law firm in Manchester, said: "The legal system in Germany is very different to ours, being a civil law system. However, publishing details of alleged infringers could be dangerous and under English law would raise potential issues of defamation and breach of privacy depending on the exact wording used."

He also pointed out that publishing names might mean alleged downloaders were less likely to pay.

"In the UK, many people have strongly protested that they have not downloaded anything. However, they are sometimes tempted to pay to avoid the accusations being made publicly available when a court claim is issued," he said.

"Therefore, publishing lists of alleged infringers may remove a big incentive for people to pay before a claim is issued because the allegations against them have already been made public."

Court trial

As part of a global crackdown on piracy, content owners began sending letters to individuals identified as downloading illegal content several years ago.

Most have since found other methods of limiting piracy, with content holders such as the Motion Picture Association and music publishers choosing instead to get court orders forcing internet service providers to block access to sites associated with piracy.

But a handful of law firms in Europe and the US, often representing the more niche content providers, have continued sending letters - often offering individuals the chance to pay the one-off compensation fee rather than face court.

Golden Eye, a firm representing pornography film company Ben Dover Productions, is currently in the process of sending letters to 2,000 O2 customers.

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