Help me: i was caught illegally downloading in Germany

We all have our reasons to turn to illegal download in Germany. For some it’s about binge-watching the latest HBO hit series, for others it’s about getting their hands first on the latest Coldplay album. Some even want to get their hands on a rare 1991 version of the Star-Wars trilogy. Whatever it is, you might have gotten away with it in your home country. However, illegally downloading copyrighted content in Germany is severely  condemned by law and is frequently enforced by private law firms who send cease and desist letters.

If you are reading those lines, you are probably holding an Abmahnung letter from a German lawyer asking you to pay a hefty fine because you were caught in the act. I will ask you not to panic and will reply to the many questions you have right now.

Warning letter illegal file sharing germany

Here is everything you want to know on how to respond to a warning letter for illegally downloading copyrighted content in Germany.

Illegal download of copyrighted material in Germany, the basic stuff

What am really guilty of ?

German laws concerning file-sharing are pretty strict and clearly condemn any kind of file sharing activity related to copyrighted content. While both download and upload are condemned by law, it’s really in reality the uploading part of the process that will be rewarded with a warning letter. Using services like torrent clients makes you automatically share the file you are downloading. This is why torrent and other P2P clients users receive a lot of letters from German lawyers.

Since April 2017, users of illegal streaming services (also broadcasting of live events) can also get in trouble because of a decision from the European Court of Justice. It established (here) that users of such services are indeed acting unlawfully. However, unlike P2P, it’s very difficult to identify users of such platforms as IP adresses are often not stored by these platforms in the long-term, making the enforcement unlikely. Only premium users can easily identified.

On the document, you might see a reference to the set of laws dealing with copyright infringement in Germany; Urheberrechtsgesetz” or “UrhG”. The article making it illegal is § 19a UrhG.

Who is responsible and who should pay?

German courts have stated that the owner of the internet access is in theory responsible for any wrong-doings happening on that network. They are responsible for securing it so other people don’t use it to download copyrighted content in Germany. This might bring up tensions if you are living in a WG and it’s not your name on the internet provider’s contract. In that case, the owner can “discharge” the fault onto the real culprit to be cleared of all charges if necessary.

How did they could identify me and find my address?

Those German law firms sending warning letters usually hire specialized third-party services that are scanning P2P nodes and clients, recording IP adresses that are currently downloading illegally in Germany. They are then authorized by law to ask your internet provider to disclose any information linked to that IP adress. This is how they obtained your private details.

Again, this is why law enforcement is really much more difficult to apply for illegal streaming services users. IP adresses are not stored on servers on the long-run and if the police should request a list, it’s only after a considerable amount of time. Beware however premium users; if you are paying a fee on one of those platforms, your IP will definitely be stored on the server, thereby increasing the risks of getting caught.

If you want to protect your traffic and use all services privately, you can get a VPN that will hide everything from anyone else. You can use NordVPN for example, which often considered one of the bests out there, especially since streaming works well with it and you connect up to 6 devices with one account (switch to English in the footer if needed).

Do they really have the right to fine me so much? Can it really go to court?

There is no clear set of rules that puts a figure on the fine you have received. It might be 900€ per illegally downloaded song in Germany or 2000€ for downloading a movie in Germany. The figure is entirely up to them. We will see later how it is possible to bargain it down a little. Although they do threaten to take this to court, it’s relatively quite rare it happens. It mostly an argument to scare you into paying fast and without asking any questions.

However, make sure to see the difference between the different fees mentioned in this document. There are fees for sending you this Abmahnung, the contract penalty & the fine mentioned as repair for their clients. Also note that a law passed in 2013 should limit Abmahnung and legal claim fees to 150€ & 450€ respectively.

Offense repairs on streaming cases are much lower, making it less profitable for law firms to pursue; legal claim fees remain the same as for P2P cases but the fine per film can only be 5 to 10€.

Is this a real German law firm and not a scam? Do they really work with the copyright holders?

Now this is a little tricky because it is true that some scam letters (e.g from non-existing “Kroner & Kollegen” law firm) have been sent around and they are not entitled to represent the copyright holder. However, most often than not, the warning letter for illegally downloading copyrighted content is a real one coming from a real law firm who represents company like Viacom, Sony, 20th Century Fox, etc.

Here are some law firms sending cease and desist letters in Germany (hat-tip to
Auffenberg, Petzhold, Witte; Baumgarten & Brandt; Bindhart , Fiedler, Zerbe; CSR; Daniel Sebastian; Denecke Haxthausen & Partner; Fareds; Johannes Rübenach; Kornmeier & Patner; Lihl; Lutz Schroeder; Marcus Meier; Marko Schiek; Negele; Nümann und Lang; Paulus; Philipp Marquort; Rainer Munderloh; Rasch; Reichelt, Klute, Aßmann; Sasse und Patner; Schalast & Patner; Scheuermann,Westerhoff, Strittmatter; Schutt, Waetke; SKW Schwarz; U+C; Vahrenwald & Kretschmer; Waldorf Frommer; WeSaveYourCopyrights; Winterstein; Zimmermann & Decker.

Rule number 1: Don’t panic and don’t send anything back

What is this “Unterlassungserklärung” document and what should i do with it?

Together with the warning letter establishing your identity and the content, there is another document called “Unterlassungserklärung”. This is the German equivalent to a cease and desist letter that the law firm wants you to sign to prove that you recognize yourself to be guilty of the accusations. Do not sign this document and do not send it back! By doing so, you would give more legal ground against you and would have to pay.

Cease and desist letter file sharing germany

Cease and desist letter for Downloading Deadpool (source:

Now tell me what can i do about this warning letter

There are different courses of action you can take at this point and i guess it depends on how bold you are and how good you are dealing with a possibly nerve-racking situation.

1- Pay-up right away

Let’s be honest now: those letters are an attempt at scaring you off and pressuring you into paying the full amount. This is even more impressive for a foreigner that doesn’t understand German completely. You shouldn’t panic and pay-up without asking any questions as there is room for negotiation. After all, you have to remember that it is not the government sending you those letters; the fine hasn’t been set by law.

2- Do nothing

While curling yourself in a ball and hoping that it will go away might not seem like the mature and adult thing to do, this reaction might still have a few arguments for it. Reacting this way is basically counting on the weaknesses of the system; those German law firms are very busy you see. They send hundred of thousands of warning letters a year to the average Joe for illegally downloading movies in Germany. They know very well that they won’t be able to handle each individual case manually so they might no simply follow-up, should you not reply to their first Abmahnung.

Then again, there is also a good chance that you might be part of the chosen ones for whom it doesn’t go away. If they do follow-up, additional legal fees might occur and it can be enforced. This is a risk you take if you pick this option.

Doing nothing is a viable option but it can back-fire at you

3- Seek legal counselling

They come at you with legal weaponry? It’s then maybe time to gear up with some of your own and get in touch with a lawyer. Judging from the cases i have heard around me and in forums around the internetz, this seems to be a popular option. It’s a good compromise between costs, stress & time spent dealing with a fine for illegal file sharing in Germany. Sure, it’s not cheap but you might in turn save hundreds of euros for negotiating a cheaper fine or even not paying it all.

What a lawyer will do is to send a modified cease and desist letter in your behalf that basically says that you are sorry for what happened but you still don’t recognize that you are guilty and that you won’t do that in the future.

Fees for doing so with German lawyers specialized in copyright infringement cases can vary. It’s really worth it in a lot of cases. If you don’t know where to start your search, Jurato is a good option. It’s a platform that connects you with recognized specialists in their fields. Payment is secured and all communication made in English.

I wish you good luck in fighting against the odds. I hope this post helped you understand your situation.


Also, if you want to use your internet access as you want, don’t forget you can fully hide your traffic with a good VPN like NordVPN. Considered one of the bests on the market, safe and easy to use, it works well for this kind of use too.

Edit 1: This question was asked many times in the comments:

“I used torrents or streamed this piece of content [insert movie or music here], and i didn’t know about the rules in Germany! What are the chances to be caught and receive a letter?”

Answer: There are no rules defining the probability that you could get caught, and also no way to tell the delay with which you can receive this letter. Only time can tell.

Edit 2: This question was asked many times as well:

“I used another service download content (Gdrive, WeTransfer, some random platform, etc), what are the risks?”

Answer: This post is about torrenting and streaming. I cannot answer about any other means or technologies.

Disclaimer: this post is purely for informative purpose about what to do when caught illegal file sharing in Germany. It doesn’t replace the counselling for a professional attorney. Please make sure you fully understand your situation before taking any action. Better safe than sorry <3 <3 <3.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Also a big thank you to Oliver from the Frankfurt Expat blog, whose post on the legality of streaming helped me fine tune some details of this article.
If you are living near or around Frankfurt, check his blog out, it’s a good read to discover the city.


  • Reply pinar gunver 08/03/2018 at 14:52

    Hi Bastien, I’ve used accidentally a torrent program without knowing that it’s illegal when I stayed in Berlin with Airbnb. My homeowner said kindly today that they received that letter and I should pay 600 € for it even this is their own internet access. But in fact, I turned back my country, I am in Turkey already. So, all in this situation, I believe that they should have needed to warn me about this strict laws. So, what if I would not pay for it? Do you have any advice for me? What happens when you’re only a tourist who visited Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/03/2018 at 09:41

      Hi there. You are wrong to think that you should have had a warning about this. You can still be hold liable for your action, even if you are only a tourist.

  • Reply Kris 05/03/2018 at 20:48

    Hello, I have received a letter again after 2 years. My flatmate at the time admitted fault and was supposed to sort it out, but of course didn’t (I was travelling at the time so I forgot about it), now I have received 2 more letters – I have facebook convos proving he said he did it. I also have proof I subscribe to netflix and buy all my movies on itunes. Now, I am not the kind of person to take things laying down and I am pretty angry that I am being wrongly accused of something that is completely out of my character. What are my options to counter-sue for slander and damages caused, and to foot the bill for me to pay for a lawyer and send them a message of don’t fuck with me. I don’t care how much this would cost… I would go all the way to prove this point. Alternatively is there a way I can wait as long as possible to cause them as much administration as possible. I don’t want to cave to bullies. I want to know how I can send back a bit of their bad energy.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/03/2018 at 17:29

      Hi Kris. Only a lawyer can channel that energy and direct you to the right solution i’m afraid.

  • Reply Seddd 02/03/2018 at 20:01

    Hi bastien,
    I have downloaded many movies in Germany and now i am not in germany and they send to my home in Germany a letter to pay 900 euros only for one of the movies which I downloaded, If i pay it then will they send another one because i have downloaded 70 movies. What should i do please help me

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/03/2018 at 13:11

      Hi Sedd. I cannot tell you what to do. This post helps you make a more informed decision about what to do next.

  • Reply Jon 02/03/2018 at 16:34

    I recently installed Acestream and watched a live SKY UK football game – am I likely to get a fine for doing so ?
    Are live football games also copyrighted ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/03/2018 at 13:10

      Hi Jon. This practice would be considered streaming. Refer to the content of the post about streaming.

  • Reply Alma 26/02/2018 at 10:08

    Hi Bastian,

    I just recently arrived in Germany from africa and had bit torrent open for a minute. My downloads were all stopped but it was only open for 3 minutes.
    If i downloaded and stopped my downloads overseas will they send me warning letter for all the movies i had downloaded (partially) there?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/02/2018 at 09:18

      Hi Alma. Yes, it is possible.

    • Reply Amina 10/03/2018 at 12:23

      Alma, That happened to me, I came from Bosnia, and when I opened my laptop here in Germany, torrent opened and accidentaly seeded a movie I had downloaded in Bosnia. It was opened for a minute only, (they sent me time 22:20-22:21) and I’ve got 915€ to pay I feel awful, because it came to my sisters adress, so now she has to pay.

  • Reply Moses 25/02/2018 at 16:38

    Hello Bastian
    Please I need to understand my situations. I downloaded euro truck simulator 2 using torrents about 6 times on the same week as some didn’t function. Now I got a letter already to pay 850€. Please will I be fined for each of the different downloads of the same game?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2018 at 08:40

      Hi Moses. Hard to say, it’s possible yes.

  • Reply Andy 16/02/2018 at 10:57

    Hello Bastian.
    I visited some friends in Germany and watched about 20 movies on Popcorn.
    The got a letter with a 600 fine for tow movies. Do you believe they will scan the whole IP server history or they can’t catch it all. Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/02/2018 at 11:03

      HI Andy. It’s possible you receive more letter for other offenses yes.

    • Reply Bárbara Marcos Morgado 15/03/2018 at 13:16

      Hi Andy,
      I did the same.. Can you tell me if you got more lettlers besides the first?
      I’m trying to find out what will happen to me.. Thank you

  • Reply HARRY 16/02/2018 at 10:54

    Hey Bastien!

    Thanks for the article above, a big help on softening the blow to anyone receiving these letters. I have moved to Berlin from UK where it is pretty normal to use and download torrents. Would you have alternatives, that would be more safe. I have read of downloading from open directories on Reddit for example. Would this be “safer” at all?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/02/2018 at 11:02

      Hi Harry. Sorry, i can’t give you any alternatives, this post is about what to do when you receive a letter, not really on how to find alternative solutions.

  • Reply haz 15/02/2018 at 10:40

    Hi, I had a question regarding torrenting.
    Well I don’t usually torrent anything other than sometimes maybe games but other than that I don’t torrent movies or music until recently I tried torrenting some albums but then I always cancelled the uploading/seeding if I’m not mistaking. Anyway I received a letter saying that I made Blabla Songs available for everyone to download (uploaded) basically.
    Well first off I never uploaded any song and second I don’t even recognize the song names because I don’t even listen to such artists and I checked my torrent list too and there was nothing there. The other thing is that I only downloaded songs or just albums the letter that I got says I downloaded something like “the best of Blabla” so some kind of playlist or whatever. So at this point I don’t find myself guilty for THOSE actions and I don’t know to handle this situation. I would really appreciate it if you could help me out with this.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/02/2018 at 22:36

      Hi Haz. IF you think you aren’t guilty for anything they wrote about, it’s also a valid defense strategy. You should be just be sure about it. 🙂

  • Reply M 11/02/2018 at 20:58

    Hi Bastian,

    I have used Stremio program for watching a movie and then my friend told me it is probably illegal to watch a movie using this program. Can you please tell me is it illegal or not?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/02/2018 at 08:38

      Hi Milan. Is it providing copyrighted content illegally? If so, then yes.

  • Reply Sandra 06/02/2018 at 01:27

    I was wondering. My boyfriend is in Germany at the moment studying at a university there. He downloaded a bunch of movies and songs from TPB using the university’s network (edorom) he said. He is a little worried now that he did that. In North Africa it’sokay if you download from TPB.
    could the university send him a warning letter? Would he receive a letter from a law firm?
    Thanks for your reply I’m eager to know myself.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/02/2018 at 21:54

      Hi Sandra. Yes, as mentioned in the post, he can indeed receive a letter. The university would need to identify the person who did that though.

  • Reply safwat 04/02/2018 at 16:29

    hi can i download TV show via goggle drive? these episodes are uploaded into goggle drive from my home country. is it possible for them to catch

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/02/2018 at 21:05

      HI there. This post is only about Torrent and streaming, not direct downloads.

  • Reply Ivan 04/02/2018 at 12:24

    Hi Bastien,
    I have downloaded a movie in another country and when I came to Germany I saw that I had forgotten to remove it from my Utorrent list. According to Utorrent I have seeded about 50MB (of a 1.5 GB movie) before I stopped it. Is this enough for them to catch me at all?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/02/2018 at 21:04

      Hi Ivan. There is no way for me to tell. In theory yes.

  • Reply Alice 30/01/2018 at 18:00

    Hello! I’m a student using eduroam and streamed earlier today an old film via putlocker. I didn’t realize that using putlocker might be considered as piracy, but I’m not a premium user of that website either (actually this is my first time clicking into that site). How high is my risk of being fined for this? Thanks >.<

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/02/2018 at 19:33

      Hi Alice. I believe putlocker is a streaming website. Refer to the corresponding info in the post.

  • Reply Christian 28/01/2018 at 09:03

    Hi Bastie, is it legal to download disney movies on torrent?

    • Reply Christian 28/01/2018 at 09:06

      And is video downloadgelper legal to download with?

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/01/2018 at 22:36

        Hi Christian. Is it illegal to use the sofware? Probably not in my opinion.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/01/2018 at 22:35

      Hi Christian. No.

  • Reply Alessandro 27/01/2018 at 17:38

    I used a VPN with switzerland IP to torrent a movie. I regret it now. What are my chances of getting caught?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/01/2018 at 22:34

      Hi Alessandro, the IP you used on the torrent tracker was the VPN’s IP adress, not yours.

  • Reply Ilya 27/01/2018 at 06:45

    Hello Bastian.
    I use VPN for torrenting. My VPN server is located in Germany. But I am located in another country (non-EU). Is it possible that I still receive such letters?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/01/2018 at 10:04

      Hi Ilya, if you are using a VPN, by definition, your IP is hidden behing the VPN’s.

      • Reply Ilya 03/02/2018 at 09:00

        No, I have a different situation. I rent a server in Germany with my credit card and the server hosting provider knows my name, address etc. I install VPN software on that server and use it. Nobody except me uses this server and this IP address. So if I download a torrent I do it through a German IP and this IP is connected to me because I am the only person who uses it. Can German lawyers contact the hosting provider, ask for my address and send me those letters even if I’m outside Germany and even EU?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/02/2018 at 20:24

          Hi Ilya. It is possible? yes. Is it likely? you would be very unlucky. Only time can tell.

  • Reply Jazzie 27/01/2018 at 00:13

    Hi Bastien! Could you please throw some light on rules regarding streaming on public wifi connections such as at McD, Railway stations, etc. By using softwares such as Link Liars, the IP would be disguised. Are the risks still the same as streaming over a home internet connection?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/01/2018 at 10:05

      Hi Jazzie, if you stream over a public network, it’s this network’s IP that will be visible.

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