German Journalists Face Criminal Charges For Mentioning Name of Pirate Site

3752143560_7fb8c27ce5[1]If you haven’t had your dose of crazy today then you’re in for a treat.

Several German blogs are reporting that a prosecutor in Hamburg, Germany, has filed criminal charges against several journalists and their editors. The crime?

Publishing an interview of the operator of a pirate website.

Last Sunday Der Tagesspiegel published an interview of Spiegelbest, the operator of what is reportedly Germany’s largest pirate website. It’s called, and it was founded in late 2012. The folks behind the site claim that it is the largest pirate ebook site in Germany, and that it serves up 1.5 million ebooks downloads every month. The interview was conducted by email, of course, and it was republished the following day by Zeit.

The interview covered the basics including the site’s history, motives, and future plans, and then (in the opinion of one prosecutor) the journalists proceeded to aid this criminal enterprise by informing their readers of the name of the site discussed in the article.

The prosecutor filed charges on Wednesday, alleging that

“With the direct and multiple naming the Internet address of the reader is immediately aware of the illicit supply of the website,” it says in the complaint. “With regard to an objective journalistic reporting was no need for direct nomination.”

And further: “The publication of the Website and its Internet address wrongful offer a broad mass of readers was made immediately known. The reader is also encouraged to indirectly, to take advantage of the offer, taking advantage of the illegal site has been highlighted by the play of the interview. ” (from via Google Translate)

So it seems the American practice of pointless legal grandstanding on baseless charges has taken root in Germany.

Note that I am calling this grandstanding and not censorship, and I have good reason for that.  The thing is, these charges will never get anywhere. Even if the prosecutor could find a judge to go along with this idiocy, any convictions would be overturned on appeal. It’s not just the fact that freedom of the press is enshrined in the German constitution, but also that there is legal precedent to support the principle.

In 2005 published a story on AnyDVD, a tool that strips DRM from DVDs so you can copy them to your computer. Heise also linked to Slysoft, the developer of AnyDVD.

This was in 2005, a time before the music industry realized that stupid lawsuits actually generated more attention for whatever they were trying to fight (it’s a byproduct of the Streisand effect), so naturally 8 music companies sued Heise over the article.

They were trying to get the article unpublished, and at first they did get a judge to rule that Heise had to remove the link. But after 5 years of court battles the music companies lost. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice affirmed the principle of freedom of the press.

So this latest example of misdirected anti-piracy efforts is doomed to fail, and apparently even the prosecutor (or possibly their superior) realized that. TorrentFreak has reported that the charges were withdrawn a few hours after they were filed:

So the criminal complaint was publicly dumped during the first few hours. The criminal complaint itself was made as a matter of principle without any prospect of success in a German court room.

image by fuzzcat

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Kaz Augustin1 September, 2013

    There must be something in the air in Germany at present. Did you read about the raid on a pair of German homeschooling parents? Unfortunately, that will get more traction than this one…poor parents.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 September, 2013

      Yikes. That sounds like something that would happen here in the US.

  2. Mike2 September, 2013

    It’s a pathetic site.The Russian one has more titles.The German site has less titles than my personal collection from gigapedia


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