File sharing

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File Sharing ( English for sharing files , you receive the file sharing or file sharing ) is the direct sharing of files between users of the Internet (usually) using a file sharing network. The files are usually located on the computers of the individual participants or dedicated servers , from where they are distributed to interested users. Appropriate computer programs (see below) are required for access to file sharing networks .


In the media, the term (Internet) file sharing platforms is used more often . This term alludes to the variant of file sharing, in which the user undertakes to make a selection of his files available to other users via the Internet and in return is given the opportunity to access files from other participants. However, the term copy exchange would actually be more correct because the data is copied from computer to computer without the original itself changing hands. It must be pointed out that the term swap exchange is mainly used in "non-specialist" circles (e.g. in politics and the media), but the user community is largely concerned with file sharing or, if there is special reference to the exchange among each other, by peer-to-peer Peer file sharing (P2P file sharing) speaks.


File sharing - in the sense of the computer-aided distribution of information and creative works - began with centrally or hierarchically organized networks. The prerequisites were improved methods of data compression (e.g. MP3 ) on the one hand and faster internet connections on the other. One of the first providers was Napster , which has become the epitome of file sharing and started in 1999. The service enabled the exchange of files through a central server, i.e. H. with the help of a "higher-level source". The Recording Industry Association of America then filed a lawsuit against its operator in December 1999, just a few months after the start of the offering, which ultimately led to the judicial closure of Napster in July 2001.

Attempts to convert Napster into a paid music distribution platform failed for a long time because few record labels were willing to license their music for distribution over the Internet. In the meantime, however, Napster has developed into a fee-based music download provider that offers its customers downloads of music files at a flat rate. After Napster, Audiogalaxy and the OpenNap network continued to operate for some time , which, however, were sued by the music industry in June 2002 and subsequently closed. Today's successor networks, such as eDonkey2000 , gnutella and Gnutella2 , as well as protocols such as BitTorrent , meanwhile have significantly more users together - and sometimes even individually - than Napster had at the time of its highest user traffic.

Protocols that work (similar to Napster) according to the so-called client-server principle , in which an index server can precisely localize the individual files and their providers, which enables targeted searching and copying of files, have been on the decline for years, since the legality of these central servers is unclear in many countries, although the server itself usually does not come into contact with the illegal data. The best-known examples are the eDonkey2000 P2P network and the BitTorrent protocol, which both rely on central servers for indexing. However, since the media industry is putting a lot of pressure on both systems through the targeted shutdown of the large coordination servers with sometimes legally questionable methods, the migration to serverless structures is in progress in order to reduce the system's vulnerability in the event of a server failure. The keywords here are the Kad network at eDonkey and the so-called mainline DHT at BitTorrent, both of which are based on the Kademlia algorithm.

Parallel to these server- based file-sharing systems, since gnutella appeared in March 2000, there have also been pure peer-to-peer networks that function from the outset without a central server (s). In this case, there is a decentralized network in which each participant is in principle client, server, user and provider at the same time. This achieves complete decentralization of the network, which among other things improves the reliability of the system and complicates the localization of a person legally responsible for any illegal data traffic. Examples of this technique include: Implementations of the Kademlia algorithm ( Vuze , eMule ), gnutella ( LimeWire , gtk-gnutella , Phex ), Gnutella2 ( Shareaza , Sharelin ) and FastTrack ( Kazaa Lite K ++ ).

In response, the Recording Industry Association of America first began suing individual users of Kazaa and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs in September 2003 . In March 2004, the German section of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry began to take action against individual users of file sharing programs. Furthermore, in October 2004 the European music industry started a wave of lawsuits against 459 users of file sharing programs in Germany, Austria, Great Britain, France, Italy and Denmark.

In addition, there are also networks that not only try to work in a decentralized manner and thus to be largely independent of controlling institutions, but also to guarantee the anonymity of their participants and to offer control of the authenticity of the content offered (e.g. RetroShare , I2P , GNUnet and Freenet ). Here, too, the provider is the individual user, so that there is no central server, but the files are distributed decentrally to all users . This makes it difficult for the authorities to prosecute illegal content.

In 2004, the share of file-sharing clients in the data transfer volume of the entire Internet was 24 percent, according to a study based on samples from 27 internationally active carriers.

In addition to the popular file sharing systems files are in the Internet also places for the traditional exchange of goods, see Tauschkreis and swap meet .

Internet-based file sharing

With file sharing, which is common today, each participant can share files on his computer and make them available to others for copying, similar to the file sharing function within a local network . Among other things, films, music, computer programs or documents can be found there. Large peer-to-peer networks have several million participants and offer a variety of files. For example, you can find films there that are not (yet) available in cinemas or video stores in Germany. Others offer recordings of television programs that were broadcast decades ago.

Information and data can be passed on legally, for example, if they have been published under a free license or if passing on is expressly desired (e.g. in the case of shareware , free software or if the protection periods for the corresponding work have expired). On the other hand, the offering of works protected by copyright without the permission of the author constitutes a copyright infringement . However, the use of file sharing software and participation in the corresponding network is in itself legal.

Since the files are often offered by many people at the same time, file-sharing programs (especially with Internet flat rates ) do not incur any additional costs for the additional data traffic, since otherwise unused upload capacities are used for outgoing transfers. Many lesser-known musicians therefore offer their music via file sharing systems in order not to have to pay for expensive server capacities to distribute their music.

Client-server principle

The first programs were characterized by search queries to a server , which either provided the download directly, or relayed the client to appropriate other nodes (usually called peers ; from the English peer for equals ) so that you could download from there. The best example is Napster (now a paid provider) or eDonkey2000 in the server version (now also decentralized with the Kademlia- based Kad network). In addition to these programs, however, Internet services were often used for file sharing that were not originally intended for this, such as e-mail or instant messaging .

In addition to pure peer-to-peer-based file sharing, there is also server-supported file sharing. Due to the widespread use of ADSL (asymmetrical DSL), the possible data rate of the individual peer for uploading to the Internet is much lower than the possible receiving data rate for both variants. With the help of computers that do not participate in the network via ADSL, but via lines with high upload capacity, or many peers with a low data rate, a larger part of the receive data rate can usually be used.


Usenet , which was created before the web and actually represents a kind of collection of discussion forums, is being used more and more for file sharing. The so-called Binary Usenet is used for this, which means that not only textual content but also binary data can be posted . In order to be able to use the Usenet for binary data without restrictions, an additional provider is usually required in addition to the Internet service provider , which causes additional costs.

Commercial Usenet providers such as UseNeXT , Firstload or Alphaload are aimed specifically at filesharers through large advertising campaigns and programs with a Napster-like interface for accessing files on Usenet . In particular, apparently legal and anonymous downloads of MP3 files, films and software are advertised. Although these offers are chargeable, there is no regulated licensing to corresponding authors.


Also Sharehoster (so-called. "One-Click-Hoster") are used for file sharing. Since it is very possible here to swap privately and on a very small scale, even unpopular files can be distributed very quickly and specifically. The publisher uploads his file to the server of a corresponding sharehoster and receives a link with which the data can be called up, which can then be passed on by e-mail, instant messaging, in forums or on a website.

Share hosts are independent of each other, so the content is not cross-provider. In addition, a link is required from the uploader , which most share hosts do not publish. Sharehosters can mostly be used free of charge with the help of advertising. In order to get fewer restrictions and better services, such as faster file transfer, a premium service can often be used for a monthly fee.

Peer-to-Peer with coordination server

The first file-sharing networks were central and server-based. A central server manages the list of files offered by the clients; the actual exchange of the data blocks took place directly between the clients ( peer-to-peer ). In terms of features, it was at least possible to download from several sources on some systems if they offered the same file. Almost all of these early systems were forcibly closed for legal reasons.

In response, systems were developed that included an initial degree of decentralization. Now everyone could operate a server that takes on the administration and coordination of the clients connected to them. Each coordination server was operated by different people or groups, it was possible to switch between the servers and each server was responsible for fewer peers.

BitTorrent network

Most used clients:

Other BitTorrent clients:

In addition to these clients (which are about the same in terms of their functionality) there are many more, e.g. B .:

Peer-to-Peer: completely decentralized file sharing

Server-based file sharing systems were relatively easy to program, but central servers were also the weak point of the whole system. Not only did they have to withstand all the source search traffic, but they also paralyzed all or part of the system in the event of a failure.

That is why new, completely decentralized peer-to-peer systems, or P2P systems for short, have been developed that no longer require central servers. In such a system, all coordination and administration tasks are carried out among the peers themselves. Search queries are often started across all neighbors and sources for the download are found. The best examples are Gnutella , Gnutella2, and Kademlia -based networks.

Newer versions make it possible to automatically select some peers as special peers, which take over the tasks of the previous central coordination server. These are z. B. called super peers or super nodes.

The question of whether a completely decentralized system is to be preferred or a number of "central" servers which are operated relatively fail-safe by different groups and which is responsible for a relatively small group of peers has not yet been decided. What is certain is that a higher degree of decentralization and the associated elimination of a central, authoritative coordination server that is assumed to be fair requires additional coordination between the peers, which reduces efficiency, and such a system is more susceptible to malignant participants or network disruptors.

The first completely decentralized P2P system was Gnutella.

In April 2006, the P2P networks Kademlia, Gnutella, FastTrack and Ares had a total of around 10.3 million users. It cannot be said whether this figure corresponds to the actual number of people using these networks; one can assume that some use several P2P programs for different networks in parallel. The number of BitTorrent users cannot be measured directly. The user numbers issued by the software only indicate the users who are active at the same time, which is why the total number of users can exceed the specified 10 million many times over.

eMule-Kademlia network

Gnutella and Gnutella2 networks

Many other clients are based on giFT .

Manolito P2P network (MP2PN)

FastTrack network

Other networks or clients

Multi-network clients

Anonymous P2P

P2P systems do not need a central server, but after criminal lawsuits against individual users of these systems as well as filter measures by some Internet service providers (especially against the BitTorrent protocol, although the protocol was completely filtered despite its legal applications), the demand increased in the mid-2000s for anonymous P2P file sharing services.

The anonymity has the following goals:

  • Escape from ISP censorship and filtering
  • Escape potential government prosecution for criminal or political reasons
  • fundamental desire for privacy

The anonymous file networks achieve their anonymity through the following measures:

Passing on via intermediate stations

The original sender of data packets is disguised in that each participant not only sends its own inquiries and receives their answers, but also forwards inquiries and answers from other participants. This means that it is not clear who sent the original data or for whom it is ultimately intended. Each participant is thus a network node and a router . Together with the fact that many home Internet connections have asymmetrical bandwidths in upload and download, this naturally has negative effects on the performance of the network, because the data packet has to be downloaded several times from the previous intermediate station and uploaded to the next intermediate station.

Often, the transmitted data is also encrypted end-to-end so that the intermediate stations or the Internet provider cannot read the content of the data packets.

For illustration: Petra gives the file to Paul, Paul to Oliver, Oliver to Anna. Petra and Anna never get to know each other and are therefore protected. Often, virtual IP addresses are also used instead of real IP addresses . In addition, all transmissions are encrypted so that even the network administrator of the Internet provider cannot see what is being transmitted and to whom the transmission was directed.

The first software to use this method of forwarding was Tor , a network to anonymize web calls, and coined the term onion routing .

This method is used in GNUnet , RetroShare and I2P , among others - the latter two networks were not and are not developed exclusively for file sharing. General proxy services and anonymization services such as Tor are not suitable for P2P. On the one hand, non-anonymous clients and networks continue to be used. U. "involuntarily" levering out anonymization (e.g. Bittorrent), on the other hand, such anonymization services are not designed for file sharing in terms of bandwidth or method.

RetroShare , I2P and GNUnet are public peer-to-peer systems that achieve anonymization solely through routing and encryption. Tor, on the other hand, is operated by servers, whereby each client can also be a server at the same time. Here, too, anonymization takes place exclusively through routing. Users who configure their software as client-only do not contribute to anonymization.

Retreat in small groups

File sharing is only done with friends or at most with the next level of friends of my friends. This is also called friend-to-friend, based on the term peer-to-peer. Such networks are also referred to as darknets because the network cannot be found using a global search mechanism, because it is completely separated from a global network and does not make this claim, e.g. B. WASTE is only designed for small groups and is therefore a Darknet.

These networks are also called friend-to-friend or F2F. Released files are only visible to authorized users instead of everyone who are personally known and trustworthy by acceptance. However, these networks (without turtle routing) are not anonymous in the actual sense - network addresses and shared files are visible to every "friend" and communication, although encrypted, takes place directly with the user concerned. If an attacker is accepted as a friend, all information about the counterpart is available.

Anonymization of the data blocks

Instead of anonymizing the network, the exchanged data or data blocks are anonymized here. The file blocks are mixed with file blocks from other files, which obscures the association with a file. Data blocks are used multiple times, which also disguises the affiliation. By z. B. XOR link, the original data is not exchanged or stored on the hard drive or on the data network, but only garbage data, which also means that no copyright can be applied to this garbage data. By distributing the data blocks in the network, the original feeder of the file or its data blocks cannot be traced either.

Since the data is anonymized and no forwarding is necessary, this method of data anonymization is more efficient than the method of network anonymization. If a data block has to be uploaded and downloaded several times to its destination with the method of forwarding, which is the case between 5 and 15 times, which according to the resulting calculation formula corresponds to an overhead of 900 to 2900%, the overhead here is without optimization about 200%. ( is the size of the file, the incoming tunnel length and the outgoing tunnel length. Plus 1 for the hop between the outbound endpoint and the inbound gateway .)

By reusing some of the blocks resulting from the shuffling, the overhang can be reduced to. is the size of the file, the tuple size and the percentage of external, unrelated blocks for mixing. The default is 75 (and 3), which results in an overhang of 150%. If data blocks from other files already exist in the local memory, which are necessary for restoring the file, the degree of efficiency can be increased even further. In order to further reduce the overhang, targeted store can be used, which has the effect that the blocks of one or more specific files are used to a greater extent during mixing, which is useful when storing a group of related files.

This method is used by the Owner Free File System and compatible clients.

I2P network

Other networks or clients

  • Freenet - Open Source , anonymous and censorship-resistant platform for various Internet applications (active further development)
  • GNUnet - Free Software , anonymous file sharing client with optional content caching (active further development)
  • RetroShare - Open Source , anonymous and censorship-resistant turtle routing network for various applications (active further development)

Streams over P2P

In addition to traditional file sharing, there are also services that send data streams (so-called streams ) over a P2P network instead of complete files . This allows decentralized listening to the radio and television without the stream having to be sent from a central server. It is important that it is not done using a tree structure, but using a swarm technique, as is known from Bittorrent.


Tree structure

Swarm structure like BitTorrent

Legal disputes over file sharing

The unauthorized duplication and exploitation of works protected by copyright, which can also be available digitally, can have consequences under both civil and criminal law. In particular, the entertainment, music, film and software industries are sometimes very active in dealing with copyright infringements. After a copyright infringement has been discovered, a so-called warning is often sent first. The aim of the warning is the out-of-court settlement and thus the avoidance of a judicial dispute. In terms of content, the recipient of the warning is shown the incorrect behavior. He is requested to refrain from this behavior in the future. In doing so, the warned person - if a lawyer is involved - will also claim the associated expenses as compensation (so-called warning fee). This fee claim is legally limited to 1000 euros if the person warned is a natural person, the person giving the warning has no current legal claim against the person being warned and the other requirements of Section 97a (3) UrhG are met. At the local court level, a limit of 150 euros has been implemented in some cases.

Those involved in file sharing include a .:

  • the directly acting file sharers themselves
  • the subscriber, d. H. Contractual partner of the internet service provider (ISP) (e.g. board member of a private multi-person household, university)
  • the person who develops or provides the software used and
  • the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

A distinction must be made

  • receiving content
  • the provision or sending of content

The determination of the subscriber

Via the IP address

In principle, every Internet connection that is used to access the Internet can be clearly identified via its IP address . The contracting partner of the ISP can in principle be determined via the IP address . The situation is complicated by the fact that most IP addresses are only assigned temporarily. Subsequent use of such IP addresses for investigation purposes therefore requires the connection data to be saved by the ISP.

On January 1, 2008, the law on data retention came into force, which among other things provided for the storage of connection data at the ISP for a period of six months. However, the new regulation only became mandatory for ISPs on January 1, 2009. In its urgent decision of March 11, 2008, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that connection data collected in this way may only be released if the subject of the investigation is a serious criminal offense within the meaning of Section 100a Paragraph 2 StPO is. Simple copyright infringements are not included.

In a ruling of March 2, 2010, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the specific implementation of data retention to be unconstitutional and declared it null and void with immediate effect. Saved data had to be deleted. The federal government has not yet been able to agree on a new law, so that there is currently no obligation to store data. (As of September 2012)

Nevertheless, the access providers may continue to store IP addresses for billing purposes or to combat abuse. Therefore, as before the introduction of data retention, there is the possibility of assigning a connection owner to an IP address including a time stamp for a certain period of time.

According to their own information, the warning authorities first use software to determine the IP addresses of those connection owners whose connection is used to hold a copyrighted file on the Internet. The provider associated with this IP address is then determined. If a larger number of IP addresses comes together at a provider, the warning persons first conduct an information procedure in court, with which the provider is obliged to name the associated Internet connection owner with name and address for all IP addresses. This information then forms the basis for numerous warnings (the so-called mass warnings ), in which thousands of subscribers are written to in the text module system and they are accused of copyright infringement.

The process, which has the same result, can also take place in real time. Instead of collecting the accrued IP addresses, these can also be forwarded directly to the provider and "frozen" until the relevant court ruling is available. The complete waiver or a ban on the storage of IP addresses for the access provider would not prevent warnings.

In August 2012, the Federal Court of Justice confirmed the rights holders' right to information from providers about the disclosure and tracking of IP addresses. However, this only affects those users who themselves offer copyrighted material for download. The decision was triggered by a song by Xavier Naidoo .

Proceed against connection owner only

For the reasons mentioned above, when determining the facts of the matter, all warnings end up with the subscribers of Internet access, but not necessarily with the user of file sharing. The connection owner can be an entrepreneur who uses 2, 3, 10, 20 or even more Internet-enabled computers. The subscriber can also be a hotelier or a café operator who enables his guests to use the Internet. In most cases, the subscriber is a private person who is a member of a multi-person household. A private household often has several internet-enabled computers available and several users can be considered in multi-person households. In many of these cases, the question arises as to whether the subscriber is liable as a disruptor for the actions of other people. The answer to this question depends on the specific individual case. The following questions arise technically and legally and must be distinguished from one another:

  • Tracking the file sharers: which data can be determined
  • the evidential value of the results obtained (see above).
  • the actual liability of the file sharers
  • various other questions, in particular handling abroad, possible political solutions, etc.

According to § 101 UrhG, right holders can request the connection data directly from the provider after judicial approval is decided by different courts. The reason for the changing jurisprudence is the vague wording "... to a commercial extent, copyright infringes ..." and the question of whether and from what extent this applies to uploading files during file sharing.

In January 2008, the European Court of Justice declared that under European law the member states are not obliged to oblige providers to pass on personal data for civil law proceedings. Furthermore, a balance must be guaranteed between copyright protection and data protection. The Federal Ministry of Justice is preparing a draft law that prohibits the disclosure of connection data on suspicion of copyright infringement.

House search

In severe cases and if there is already sufficient suspicion , a house search can be carried out to secure evidence . However, this is still the exception in Germany and requires a decision by the competent court, which can issue a search warrant at the request of a public prosecutor . Only in exceptional cases (e.g. in the case of imminent danger ) may criminal investigation authorities, e.g. B. the police, search a private apartment without a prior judicial order.


In Germany, a provider of music in file sharing networks was convicted in May 2004. The fine was 80 daily rates of 5 euros each. This is the only known case so far that actually resulted in a conviction. In addition, the lawyers reached an out-of-court settlement of 8,000 euros as compensation. For the prosecution, the defendant's internet service provider was forced by the public prosecutor to surrender the customer data, because after the "1. Korb ”of the German Copyright Act , participants are liable to prosecution if they make copyrighted content available for download to others on the Internet without the permission of the author or the rights holder.

The business model of Logistep AG, based in Steinhausen, has been causing a sensation since 2005, which has automated the search for providers of legally protected works using software called File Sharing Monitor and which offers rights holders a service for an installation fee and commission. Here, too, following the search, the detour via the criminal complaint was used to access the customer data. In Switzerland, the Federal Supreme Court has now ruled that Logistep's approach is unlawful as it violates the Data Protection Act.

The access providers are generally not obliged or authorized to pass on data about their customers to third parties. Section 14 (2) of the Telemedia Act only allows Internet providers to "provide information on inventory data in individual cases by order of the competent authorities [...] insofar as this is necessary for the purposes of criminal prosecution [...] or to enforce intellectual property rights."

In higher court judgments (OLGe Frankfurt and Hamburg) it was confirmed that the provider can only be forced to surrender customer data if a criminal complaint has been filed with the public prosecutor.

Civil liability

The legal point of attack is usually not the downloads of the copyrighted works, but the uploads made automatically by the file-sharing programs (distribution). Depending on the client and network, when downloading P2P file sharing, the files that have already been downloaded are automatically uploaded to other users at the same time, usually before a file download has been completed.

A distinction must be made here: The subscriber can be called upon to cease and desist as a disruptor and as such has to pay reimbursement of expenses (costs of the warning). He is considered a disruptor if he has not complied with reasonable control and due diligence obligations for the "source of danger Internet connection". The duties of care that must be observed are not precisely defined and are decided by the courts on a case-by-case basis. Often mentioned are: up-to-date virus scanner, firewall, use of user and rights management with separate accounts, restricted rights for co-users (not: administrator), encryption of the WLAN according to the state of the art when setting up, no use of pre-configured standard passwords, instructions the user. If all reasonable due diligence obligations have been observed, the subscriber is not automatically liable.

In addition, the actual perpetrator (user who initiated the file sharing) is liable for omission, damages and fictitious license costs. Some courts are of the opinion that it can be presumed that the subscriber was the perpetrator and that he would have to actively refute that he was the perpetrator within the framework of the secondary burden of presentation and proof. What the connection owner has to explain in detail has not yet been sufficiently clarified.

Since the implementation of the 2nd basket, the downloading of copyrighted material during file sharing is usually illegal and no longer covered by the exception provision of Section 53 UrhG. In practice, however, the mere downloading is still not prosecuted under civil or criminal law. This is due in particular to the fact that the amount in dispute and the unlawful content of the download are weighted comparatively low compared to the upload and it is therefore only financially worthwhile for the rights holder to track uploads.

See also: German copyright law with its restrictions and the consequences of infringement, declaration of omission

Civil law objections

Since a warning is initially only an out-of-court offer to avoid a lawsuit, the required payment cannot be compulsorily collected without subsequent legal proceedings. However, if the warning fee is not paid, it can, even if only in rare cases, come to court; However, many warning law firms are not specialized in such processes and therefore try to avoid longer conflicts.

In the event that the opposing party considers the warning to be unjustified, he can himself go on the offensive in court with a negative declaratory action and have it established that the asserted injunction claim does not exist.

With regard to the right to cease and desist, there is the possibility of submitting the requested cease and desist declaration, but changing the content, e.g. B. without the contractual penalty specified by the warning person for the repeat case in this amount, since the amount can also be determined by the opponent in a manner that can be verified by the court fairly according to income criteria etc. (§ 315 BGB).

Country comparison and outlook

From academia and from computer and civil rights activists there is a proposal to legalize the swapping of films and music and to compensate the authors via a culture flat rate .

In France, Switzerland and Austria, too, as in Germany at the moment (2006), there are lively debates about planned amendments to copyright law, which focus in particular on overcoming the file-sharing problem. In France, parliament rejected a government bill and instead advocated the concept of a cultural flat rate.

File sharing software provider

In the Netherlands, the software of the controversial file-sharing client Kazaa was declared legal in December 2003 (this means that, according to this judgment, the provider of the Kazaa software cannot be held responsible for the copyright infringements of the software users). The Hoge Raad , the highest court in the country, has refused to renegotiate a lawsuit brought by the Dutch collecting society for words and sounds, Buma / Stemra, against the two Kazaa founders. However, this only means that in the Netherlands the software itself is not illegal and that its author cannot be held responsible for things that are made possible with his software, not that any use of the software is legal. The ECJ has now ruled that providers of Internet access services are not obliged, at their own expense, to provide a general and preventive filter system for all customers for an unlimited period of time for all incoming and outgoing electronic communications that are carried out by means of its services, in particular using "peer-to-peer" - Programs to be set up to identify the exchange of files in their network that contain a work of music, a film or audiovisual work (ECJ, ruling of November 24, 2011 C 70/10).

In April 2003, the RIAA and IFPI began suing the providers of music in file-sharing networks in both the United States and Europe . In addition, licensed download platforms were offered in order to offer users completely legal alternatives to compete with potentially illegal downloads. The disadvantage of these platforms are often the restrictions imposed by the DRM used . Since 2007, however, well-known providers such as the record label EMI Group have been moving away from this restriction.

Liability of the subscriber for violations by third parties (liability for interference)

The liability for interference as a subscriber was replaced in October 2017 by the 3rd amendment to the Telemedia Act through the new introduction of a blocking requirement in accordance with Section 7 (4) TMG . With the limitation of liability for interference to the subscriber, in principle related injunctive relief and costs, such as B. Damage compensation or warning fees excluded, but the subscriber must continue to meet the secondary duty of disclosure, i.e. convincingly explain to the court why the subscriber himself was not the perpetrator. Many of the court rulings on this subject before this change in the law are no longer binding for current case law, as they were based on a legal situation that is no longer applicable.

Since the persecutors of legal violations mostly only get hold of the subscriber for technical and legal reasons, they tried to hold them accountable. The media industry started a campaign with the motto parents are responsible for their children . Such liability assumed for the subscriber, for example, the LG Hamburg, decision of January 25, 2006, Az. 308 O 58/06 or for the WLAN the LG Hamburg, judgment of July 26, 2006, Az. 308 O 407/06 .

In a more recent decision, the subscriber was not held responsible because, on the one hand, it could not be proven who had made the corresponding copyright-protected material available for download via a file sharing platform. On the other hand, the subscriber was not subject to any general monitoring obligation for other (here) family members. This obligation only arose when the subscriber had clear indications of such offers in exchange sites. This legal opinion relating to Germany was accordingly confirmed by the Supreme Court in Austria and justified among other things by the fact that the functioning of Internet exchange platforms and file sharing systems could not be assumed to be generally known among adults and that the father also ensured that the program (LimeWire ) is deleted from the computer.

The BGH ruled on November 15, 2012 (Az. I ZR 74/12 - "Morpheus") that parents would not be liable for illegal file sharing of a 13-year-old child if they informed the child about the illegality of participating Had instructed Internet exchange sites and forbade him to participate and had no evidence that their child was violating this ban. For children of legal age, the legal situation was somewhat different: on January 8, 2014 (Az. I ZR 169/12 - "BearShare"), the BGH ruled that, due to the special relationship of trust between family members and the personal responsibility of adults, in principle (even without instruction or supervision ) would not be liable for the illegal music exchange of their adult children on the Internet, unless they had evidence that the Internet connection was being misused for copyright infringement. On March 30, 2017, however, the BGH ruled that a subscriber who, as part of his duty to investigate, found out who had committed the violation of the law, had to reveal the name of this family member if he wanted to avert his own conviction.

In its judgment of July 26, 2018, the BGH interpreted the new TMG law in conformity with European law, especially to the effect that "the right to blocking measures is not limited to certain blocking measures and also the obligation to register users and encrypt access with a Password or - in the most extreme case - to completely block access (can). " This will restore the uncertainty of the past that the legislature just wanted to eliminate. Because it remains unclear what the WLAN provider must do in each specific case. Possible consequences are that WLAN providers take precautionary measures, in particular the registration of users - also postulated by the ECJ - although there are no indications that this measure will bring anything. Otherwise, the provider may have to be sued for every violation of the law so that the courts can explain to him what would have been the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the consequences of liability for public WLANs can only be found in a new guise.

Internet service provider

You may be obliged to provide information.

In the context of criminal proceedings, they must provide the public prosecutor (but not the rights holder) with information about all the data of the defendant who held the IP in a certain period of time using the IP address determined or transmitted by the public prosecutor. According to the preliminary injunction of the Federal Constitutional Court of March 19, 2008, the transmission of the IP by the ISPs is only permitted in the case of particularly serious crimes. See details under provider liability and data retention .

Instead, right holders or their representatives now fall back on § 101 UrhG to get connection data. The Federal Court of Justice resolved the dispute as to whether the Internet service provider is only obliged to provide the name and address in the event of a commercial extent of copyright infringement, or whether such information is generally to be given, was resolved by the Federal Court of Justice with a decision of April 19, 2012. According to this, a right to information according to § 101 UrhG does not presuppose a commercial extent of the infringement, but is generally justified taking into account the rights of the rights holder, the person obliged to provide information and the user and taking into account the principle of proportionality.

With the amendment to the Telemedia Act enacted on July 21, 2016, an amendment to  Section 8  (3) clarified that access providers who provide users with Internet access via a wireless local network are also privileged to be liable. This regulates that WLAN operators fall under the so-called provider privilege. However, the actual abolition of liability for interference did not make it into the legal text. Instead, the justification for the law merely states that the legislature would like to see that WLAN operators can no longer be warned for legal violations by third parties and that claims can be made to cease and desist.

Real legal security for open radio networks is currently not achieved. In contrast to the actual legal text, the justification is not binding. Courts can use them for interpretation, but do not necessarily have to share the viewpoint presented there. Therefore, there is no progress associated with the law. The grand coalition has just not paved the way for open WiFi in Germany. For this purpose, it should have expressly exempted the operators from injunctive relief in the law.

Dangers of file sharing

Computer security

Since a great deal of data is offered and copied in file-sharing networks without control, users of such networks are at risk from viruses , Trojans , computer worms and other malicious programs. These malicious programs are specifically hidden by other users in a wide variety of files in order to cause damage to other computers after successful downloading. On the other hand, antivirus programs only help to a limited extent, since newly programmed malware cannot yet be recorded in current virus lists.

Unintentionally shared files can lead to the dissemination of personal information on file-sharing networks. This can happen, for example, with negligent configuration of the client program, if instead of the share directory the entire hard disk is inadvertently offered to other participants for download.


Because large parts of the population violate the law with impunity with file sharing, the legislature can see itself prompted to effect the prevention with very drastic means. In some countries there are laws based on the " three strikes " principle, whereby subscribers are blocked from internet access after three violations of copyright . In France this principle was implemented in 2010 in the form of the Hadopi Law.


Since file sharing generates a lot of data traffic compared to web browsing , there is an incentive for Internet service providers to limit this, something that the American ISP Comcast tried in 2007, for example . This process, known as traffic shaping , does not work for certain services or providers and can almost always be bypassed, but the FCC nevertheless saw it as an interference with network neutrality and warned the operator to abandon this practice. After that, and after discussions with BitTorrent Inc. , the operator switched to introducing an upper limit of 250 GB of monthly traffic volume. This regulation has been on hand and represents a limitation of until then and with other providers usual flat rate basis over flat rates represent.

Other providers are also suspected of throttling traffic from file sharing services. In Germany, Kabel Deutschland is a current case of a similar restriction. Between 6:00 p.m. and midnight, the data throughput is restricted by the bit torrent protocol.

Several providers, producers of file sharing software and universities have developed a service called P4P that is supposed to give the software limited insight into the network structure. If this software prefers connections to regionally neighboring nodes, this relieves the provider and ensures a higher data transfer rate, at least under laboratory conditions. The obvious advantages are countered by privacy concerns on the user side.


The US company Cisco estimates that the volume of data generated worldwide through file sharing will increase from (also estimated) 6,085 to 6,784 petabytes per month in the period from 2013 to 2018 .

According to estimates by the Federal Association of the Music Industry , file sharing traffic in Europe will increase by more than 18 percent annually in the period up to 2015. The association claims that this would result in losses of approximately 32 billion euros for the creative industries in 2015 - assuming that all downloaded data without exception would have been purchased instead at full price by the users concerned. Similar statements about the American market, however, have recently been sharply criticized by an official study by the Government Accountability Office and may no longer be used in official papers and statements in the USA due to a lack of evidence and dubious study conduct.

For the year 2009, the Federal Association of the Music Industry assumes that only around 10 to 20% of the downloaded pieces would have achieved sales and put the damage at around 400 million to just under a billion euros.

According to a - unrepresentative - survey conducted by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels in 2010 among young people aged 12 to 19, 62.8 percent have already passed files on to others. 86.8 percent of those surveyed were aware that this might be prohibited, but only 55.3 percent felt that file sharing was wrong.

Scene language

Certain terms and abbreviations have emerged for feature films which, in particular as parts of file names, are intended to describe the source and thus the quality of a file in more detail, for example LD , Screener , Telesync , Telecine , Cam-Rip , or DVD-Rip .


See also

Web links


  1. ^ Maria Benning: Charges against MP3 exchange site. In: heise online. December 8, 1999, accessed November 28, 2019 .
  2. Clemens Gleich: Napster forced to close. In: heise online. July 12, 2001. Retrieved November 28, 2019 .
  3. Christian Rabanus: AOL subsidiary develops Napster clone. In: heise online. March 15, 2000, accessed November 28, 2019 .
  4. ^ Andreas Wilkens: RIAA is suing 261 file sharing users. In: heise online. September 8, 2003, accessed November 28, 2019 .
  5. Hartmut Gieselmann: USA: New threats of legal action against music exchangers. In: heise online. October 18, 2003, accessed November 28, 2019 .
  6. ^ Andreas Wilkens: German music industry is suing file sharing users. In: heise online. March 30, 2004, accessed November 28, 2019 .
  7. Andreas Wilkens: European music industry starts wave of lawsuits. In: heise online. October 7, 2004, accessed November 28, 2019 .
  8. Source:
  9. susceptibility to Bittorrent over Tor
  10. RetroShare FAQ, what am anyone else know safe and secure sharing? "
  11. Archived copy ( memento of April 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Functional principle of data anonymization in the OFF system
  12. Legal analysis of the OFF system
  13. Explanation of tunnel length in I2P and its standard values, see "I2CP options"
  14. ^ AG Munich - 224 C 19992/12; AG Hamburg - 31a C 109/13.
  15. Press release No. 37/2008 of the Federal Constitutional Court of March 19, 2008
  16. BVerfG, 1 BvR 256/08 of March 2, 2010, paragraph no. (1–345)
  17. Annika Demgen: File sharing: BGH confirms the authors' right to information. In: netzwelt. Retrieved August 13, 2012 .
  18.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Analysis of several judicial decisions, pdf@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  19. - damper for the prosecution of illegal music downloads ( Memento from January 25, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  20., conviction for unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works when using the music exchange platform Kazaa , judgment of May 6, 2004
  21. FAZ.Net, First judgment against users of a music exchange , June 8, 2004 - Article on the court judgment of May 6, 2004
  22. cf. Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner: Federal Supreme Court decision in the Logistep AG case ( Memento from September 12, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  23. Federal Ministry of Justice, Telemedia Act: § 14 inventory data
  24. Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology , draft of a law for the unification of regulations on certain electronic information and communication services ( Memento of June 16, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) , 2006 - document as PDF
  25. For details on this: OLG Cologne, ruling v. May 16, 2012 - 6 U 239/11 - .
  26. ECJ C 70/10 . Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  27. Third law amending the Telemedia Act. (PDF; 35 kB) (No longer available online.) Bundesanzeiger Verlag, September 28, 2017, formerly in the original ; Retrieved on February 4, 2018 (from Federal Law Gazette Part I 2017, No. 67 of October 12, 2017).  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  28. so also the LG Düsseldorf, ruling v. August 24, 2011 - 12 O 177/10 -
  29. OLG Frankfurt am Main, ruling of December 20, 2007, Az .: 11 W 58/07
  30. ^ Press release on the judgment of the Federal Court of Justice in Case I ZR 74/12
  31. I ZR 169/12
  32. BGH: No parental liability for file sharing of adult children ,, January 8, 2014
  33. BGH, judgment of March 30, 2017, Az. I ZR 19/16. Quoted from: Federal Court of Justice on file sharing via a family connection. In: press release. Federal Court of Justice, March 30, 2017, accessed March 30, 2017 .
  34. On the liability of the subscriber for copyright violations via unsecured WLAN Federal Court of Justice, press office press release no. 124/2018, accessed September 10, 2018
  35. OLG Cologne, decision of January 23, 2012 - 6 W 13/12 -
  36. BGH, decision of April 19, 2012 - I ZR 80/11 - m. Note RA Feser
  37. End of WLAN interference liability: European law does not stand in the way of real legal security ›digital society. In: Retrieved August 24, 2016 .
  38. French "Three-Strikes-Law" active - ComputerBase
  41. Janko Röttgers: Kabel Deutschland: Internet provider slows down file sharing. In: Focus Online . March 6, 2008, accessed October 14, 2018 .
  42. Cisco Visual Networking Index. Forecast and Methodology 2009–2014 (PDF; 274 kB), June 2010, p. 10
  43. Building a digital economy: The importance of securing jobs in the creative industries of the European Union ( Memento of May 24, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 2.3 MB), April 2010, p. 11
  44. ^ Ernesto: US Government Recognizes Benefits of Piracy ( English ) TorrentFreak .com. 04/13/2010. Retrieved on June 12, 2010.
  45. Dr. Florian Drücke, Head of Law and Politics at BVMI, interview from October 5, 2010.
  46. Illegal but legal? A research overview on the awareness of injustice among young people ( Memento from September 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 109 kB), April 2010, p. 10
  47., abbreviations for movies what do they mean ( memento of October 24, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) , January 13, 2005 - discussion contribution in a forum which also describes other such slang expressions