Not just in Germany, but especially in Germany because we know how keen they are to write official letters to offenders. I wrote about this issue a couple of years ago, but the situation has changed.
According to the European Court of Justice, the streaming of pirated (illegally copied) movies, series or sports is illegal. Until this year, viewing an illegal stream was a grey zone which was unenforceable and fines were only issued to those caught downloading or uploading illegal files. However, now, if the person viewing the stream knows or should have known that the site was illegal. The definition of how you should know is a little fuzzy, but essentially if you are searching for the latest content (movie/series/live sports) online and you find it streamed for free, then it is probably illegal. But come on, honestly, if you are reading this then you know what you have been doing is illegal ;-).
The original ruling from the European Court was issued in April but this apparently is a guideline for countries in the EU. However lawyers in German are starting to get itchy trigger fingers probably because this is about to happen. In terms of potential fines, one German lawyer quoted by Focus suggests approximately €150 per offense. This about €10 to cover the cost of not paying to watch the content and €140 for the effort of the lawyer to send you the letter. Of course.
Now although the law can be applied retrospectively, this is unlikely to happen because most of these sort of streaming sites very kindly don’t record IP addresses of viewers (very considerate when you think about it). Therefore the people most at risk are those who have become premium members of these sites and handed over credit card information or email addresses to the illegal streaming sites.
I know that a lot of people use VPNs to hide behind and to stay safe, and although this probably works, it doesn’t change the fact that it is still illegal. Whether or not the authorities find a way around this or not, I have no idea, but its up to you if this is something you want to try.
Now before you get overly-worried, it is still early days. As the article from Focus points out, watching these illegal streams is becoming dangerous and users need to watch out. But to date there has been no mass sending of warning letters and fines. Yet.
Maybe for now it is best to stick to Netflix and Amazon Prime…