Downloading or streaming Movies and Music in Germany

img_6252A news item caught my eye today in the FAZ about asylum seekers in one of the many camps in Germany have been getting into trouble downloading 1000s of pirated movies to wile away the time until they are either accepted or rejected. Each infringement costs at least €300 so some of the penalties have been quite high. While it is highly doubtful as to whether there was any point going to court in this case as there is very little chance of the fines being paid, it reminded me that this has been an issue for foreigners for a long time.

For those of us who have been here for a while, it is not a new story. I think everyone knows someone who has received a fine in their first year in Germany. A single download of a song or a movie will cost between €300 to €1000 and with over 500,000 fines sent out each year, and legal firms specialising in tracking down people who infringe, it just isn’t worth the risk. Don’t download illegally. Germany is one of the strictest countries for enforcement.

Streaming on the other hand is a grey zone. Now before you reach happily for your laptop to watch the latest Downton Abbey series, I need to emphasise the greyness of the zone.

Streaming is still seen as generally illegal by the courts, however there is no reliable law dealing with this particular technology ….. yet. Where it has gone to court, the decision is usually against the viewer though and there were many warnings sent out in 2013 to people streaming certain sites like Redtube.

The issue is all about the caching of data. Streaming doesn’t download a copy of the file, it caches the data from the movie short term. Some laws indicate that if the data is part of an act of temporary and transient reproduction and is an integral and essential part of the technological process of connecting to a 3rd party website, and of no monetary value, then the user is not doing anything illegal.

But let’s be honest, although this means that many people still get away with streaming, and while lawyers argue it out in the courts, it’s only a matter of time before the law is clarified and penalties become as certain as for downloaders. If you choose to stream or download there is a risk you will get a letter.

This whole debate only concerns streaming via caching. If you use another programme to watch movies online, like DivX, then this is more dangerous as it downloads a temporary copy of the movie to your hard drive and you will get caught. Sooner rather than later. Bit torrents are also another popular way to get caught.

Needless to say, if you also decide to set up a website to stream movies then you will be top of the list of targets 🙂

If the whole area of illegal downloads is too tiresome to stress about, here is a complete list and comparison of legal streaming sites in Germany from vetalio. And if you want to stream UK tv for free and watch pay as you go movies, have a look at Youk.tv and Filmon.com. 

For those of you who are reading this article only after getting caught, then here is a useful set of next steps from a fellow blogger in Berlin. You don’t have to simply shut up and pay up…

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, the advice is not necessarily 100% accurate and maybe be inaccurate as of tomorrow, and Hollywood didn’t pay me to write this blogpost! If you receive a fine or court letter, find a lawyer, don’t mail me :-). If you want to check the latest legal advice you can look here in German from e-recht24.

30 thoughts on “Downloading or streaming Movies and Music in Germany

  1. Downloading (and especially uploading) any material that can somehow be classified as copyrighted over an open internet connection is asking for trouble. If you want to protect your online privacy then you should definitely consider using a virtual private network (VPN) and making sure your computer is properly configured so that all of your internet traffic becomes secured, regardless of its content.

    1. Thanks :-). I guess if the aim is to not get caught doing something illegal, then the VPN is a good idea. I preferred to focus on explaining what is legal and what isn’t 😉 rather than how to break the law…

  2. Well, that’s unespected … I’m in Berlin for the next 3 months. I came from Romania due to an exchange with a company, so … you say that I am not able to watch online (streaming) at my favourite team’s matches this rest of the season? 😦

    Lucian.

    1. Hi Lucian,

      Its not that you are unable, but that streaming is a legal grey zone that the authorities are trying to shut down. Many people stream online though, but downloading will almost certainly land you with a big fine.

      1. Indeed, but I also don’t want to have problems.
        The law could be interpreted of course … but It’s not certain.
        Anyway, thank you for your information.

        Lucian.

  3. Hi,

    And can I install IPTV here in Germany to watch TV from another countries? Is that legal?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Cris, yes, in principle it is legal. The services are normally streaming services which for now are safe (see above). The issue will only come if the software you install somehow downloads packets of data to your hard drive. Many streaming services don’t require any downloads. youk.tv for example is a live stream of all UK channels for free with no download required.

      1. hi, i use 2 defference type of wifi to download 1 movies,the first wifi is open and the second is private wifi what will happend now?

      2. Hard to tell really, but if you downloaded on an open connection instead of vpn, then you are taking a big risk

  4. Hello,
    I wanted to ask, if I were watching series online in germany, and now I can’t reach the website anymore (it is directed to “T-Online Navigationshilfe”) Is it possible that I was doing something very illegal and I will get a fine?

    1. Very hard to tell, I’m afraid. Probably just T-Online have blocked the website, but I can’t promise anything.

  5. I come from bulgaria and i have one torrent that is not finished with donwloading in my computer…so when i came in germany i see downloaded is completed…:/ what will happend now? :/ i think that this is not my fold…

    1. This isn’t an easy one, but although you may not think it is your fault, it is still illegal in germany (and many other countries) to download pirated content. The only question is whether you are spotted doing it. There isn’t much you can do except wait and see if you get a letter. Unfortunately, downloading/uploading by accident probably won’t be a defence, since what you are saying is that you did intend to access and share pirated content, just not in Germany.

  6. Hi,

    I have a question about and app called showbox. You have a choice to either download or stream, I always choose stream and it gives the option of streaming from torrents or a sever. Could I be possible fined for streaming using the sever option?

    1. probably not. there is some discussion about the legality of Showbox online but it seems like the streaming option is safe.

  7. Hi,

    I love Korean serials and sadly to find them online with translation on legal websites is impossible. I use Russian website which are only for Korean stuff or yandex video (same as Google video) which shows directly from different sites. Is it legal or not?
    I mean will someone really check for Korean dramas on Russian websites?
    And if a paper will come, will it come for the whole time as one or for each episode I’ve watched?

    I’m really confused 😦

    1. Hi there, I’m not a legal expert, so can’t tell you 100% for sure. However, firstly, at the moment it is unlikely you will be done for streaming. Second, people are mainly being targeted for infringing on US/Hollywood content. And if you are unlucky enough to receive a letter, then it will be for specific content that can be proved that you have downloaded.

  8. what if some friends of me upload the copyrighted file from another arabic country to google drive personal account, and they gave me the account, and i opened it here in Germany as if it is my account, and download the file??
    also if someone send me the illegal files through facebook or my personal email???

    1. Hi there, copyrighted material is illegal if shared irrespective of how you do it. Your question is really about whether you will get caught or not, and I am really not in a position to say. It is unlikely to say what happens when you send something through gmail or Facebook messenger but I guess they sent you a link, and not a file. Which means you are following a link to download from a server in which case you risk getting caught.

    1. If you are streaming the movies there, then it is not legal but not technically illegal or enforced. If you download anything there, then it is illegal and will be penalised.

      1. Are you sure that streaming is legal on websites like ” GOMOVIES.TO ” ? cause i heard rumors about even online streaming is now illegal. Thanks in advance.

      2. I didn’t say it was legal :-). I am quite sure about the content above and the situation hasn’t changed yet

      3. I can’t really advise you whether or not to carry on using the site. All I can say is that it is still illegal but I’ve never heard of anyone being fined or prosecuted so far.

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