IP trolls sue porn-watching Germans

Some Germans are wishing they would have gone with the discount DVDs after receiving letters claiming they owe cash for watching porn online.

You've probably heard of patent trolls. But what about porn trolls? In Germany, 10,000 people are getting letters from a law firm claiming they owe cash for watching pornographic videos online. And unique addresses of computer users are part of the legal filing. 

"They write to them and they say, 'Okay, we know that you've viewed one of a handful of films that our client holds the intellectual property for, so we want you to pay us 250 euros to make future law suits go away,'" explains Cyrus Farivar, the senior business editor of Ars Technica.

So if you do the math, that's 10,000 people being told to pony up about 300 bucks a pop... That's over $3 million this law firm is trying to get for its client in Switzerland, which Farivar says is called the Archive.

"The website of the Archive looks like it was something that somebody slapped together in about 10 minutes," he says. "There is a street address and a phone number in Switzerland. I called that number, it kept ringing and ringing, I didn't even get a voicemail or anything like that."

Now take this out of the world of pornography for a minute, and imagine you, as a viewer, getting charged for watching a YouTube music video somebody else uploaded. While there's not a lot of legal precedent for that, Farivar says whether or not the law firm's case stands up in court, people might still pay just to make it all go away. 

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

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