The advent of streaming, YouTube-clone porn sites has resulted in countless hours of self-pleasure, but for tens of thousands of Germans, that “free” content may come at a price: the Regensburg-based law firm Urmann and Colleagues, described by some as a “copyright trolls,” just sent them threatening letters demanding payment of €250 ($344) per each allegedly infringing clip viewed on Redtube.

U+C is acting on behalf of Swiss firm The Archive AG, another copyright-protection outfit whose own client supposedly owns titles including “Miriam's Adventures,” “Dream Trip,” “Hot Stories” and “Amanda's Secrets.” There’s no clear evidence, however, that those videos were uploaded to Redtube without permission, and the illegality of simply viewing the material, as opposed to pirating it, is hardly an ironclad fact. As Techdirt pointed out, German law even “allows for ‘private copying’ without legal penalty.”

Of deeper concern, however, would be the shady methods employed in obtaining viewer’s IP addresses. “The itGuards ‘Gladii’ software mentioned in court records is reportedly only designed for monitoring file-sharing networks,” a designation that does not apply to Redtube, Gigaom noted. “File-sharing is easier to monitor in this sense, as IP addresses are there for the harvesting unless the user deploys a VPN or proxy.” Chip.de, meanwhile, speculated that U+C could have filched the data with malware, though the Redtube platform itself could also have played a role.

However extreme an invasion of privacy this maneuver presents, the firm is likely to see some people pay up out of fear and embarrassment. And with as many as 30,000 individuals billed, by the estimation of Cologne-based IT lawyer Christian Solmecke, who is handling complaints about the extortion effort with Wilde Beuger Solmecke, the cash could up to a serious windfall. For now, authorities have urged recipients to ignore the letter. Perhaps facing more scrutiny than anticipated, U+C has frozen all phone communications, with callers informed via voice message that their lines “may be overloaded.” 

H/T Chips.de | Photo by Celeste Canino/Flickr