What threatens if I illegally watch Bundesliga games?

If you want to see all football matches, you have to dig deep into your wallet. That is why more and more people are streaming the Bundesliga on the Internet. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON asked the lawyer Christian Solmecke, who specializes in advising the Internet and IT industry.

Streams are very popular with many people. Football streams are used particularly frequently. But paying full price for it – many football fans don’t want that. One of the main reasons for this is undoubtedly the high costs that football fans now have to pay to watch football matches in the Bundesliga, for example. A subscription alone is no longer enough. That is why Bundesliga fans often search the Internet for a suitable mostly foreign stream. Offers of this kind are usually provided by a simple Google search.

More and more frequently, these Bundesliga streams come from Chinese TV programs. The strategy of marketing the German Bundesliga in China has been around for a long time. Some Chinese TV channels are already broadcasting Bundesliga games. As the demand for the Bundesliga in the Middle Kingdom is not that high, the programs broadcast the games at very low prices.

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The channels from China are easy to crack. “The Bundesliga runs in China as the fifth or sixth sports program. It is interesting for the hackers because, on the one hand, they pay little to be able to receive it. And the technical security of these programs is often not as high as in Germany, ”explains c’t editor Nico Jurran to Deutsche Welle. Once the sender’s signal has been decrypted, it can easily be streamed repeatedly around the world.

Just this week, European countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany jointly took action against streaming from the Far East. Around 200 servers were shut down in a major pan-European raid. But that’s probably only the tip of the iceberg, many other streams are still in use.

But are such streams from China always illegal? It would always depend on the form in which it is streamed. Two criteria are crucial in assessing whether a stream is illegal. “It would be illegal, for example, if offers such as Sky Bundesliga broadcasts with German commentators are usually streamed free of charge,” says Christian Solmecke when asked by TECHNOLOGY BUTTON. Users would know that reception in Germany would actually only be legal with a paid subscription. The latest case law of the European Court of Justice states: “Watching illegal live streaming is a copyright infringement (Az: C-527/15). Users behave illegally if it can be seen that the stream was distributed illegally, ”says Solmecke.

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Lawyer: “It’s a gray area”

This means that the streaming source must not be obviously illegal. However, this could be the case if a user saw the Sky logo on a Russian or Indian website. “Because the pay broadcaster Sky has the rights to broadcast Bundesliga games live in Germany,” says Solmecke. It is different if a foreign stream with an Indian commentator is streamed. Then the source is not obviously unlawful for the user. So would this be legal? “No, because the Indian or Chinese stream could always end up being illegal if the geo-blockingshould be viewed as an ‘effective technical protective measure’ (Section 95a UrhG) that cannot be circumvented using VPN, ”says Solmecke. The use of VPN is legal. “This would allow the Indian stream via VPN in Germany. But there are lawyers who disagree. A court has not yet decided on this. In this respect it remains a gray area, ”says Solmecke.

How do I recognize illegal streaming offers?

“Currently, users are only protected by the private copying regulation standardized in Section 53 of the Copyright Act (UrhG). This allows reproduction for the purpose of a private copy, ”says Christian Solmecke. This is only the case if the submission is not obviously illegal. Every user has an obligation to check beforehand, but this should be almost impossible to carry out. The decision is easy with platforms like YouTube. There, the user can assume that the content there has been legally posted, although there will be exceptions here as well.

“It will look different with portals such as kinox.to. Wherever current movies, series and music albums are offered, users must be aware that the content accessible through them is obviously illegal, ”says the lawyer. This also applies to live streams of the Bundesliga, if the stream shows, for example, the Sky offer with a German commentator. It should be clear to the user that this is actually a paid offer. But: “It is actually often difficult for users to weigh up.”

These penalties threaten

When streaming, users are threatened with a warning. The costs are lower than with file sharing warnings. “And although the European Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that the streaming of obviously illegal content is illegal, a wave of warnings feared by many has not yet materialized. One reason for this is that the providers of illegal (sport) streams rarely save the IP addresses of the users, ”explains Christian Solmecke. However, this would be necessary to identify a user. Also because most of the providers are abroad, prosecution is difficult.

“The warning costs have been capped for some time at around 150 euros in the private sector, the compensation for damages per film consumed should be around 5-10 euros. And this is simply unattractive for the warning industry, ”says Christian Solmecke. However, black-eyed people shouldn’t feel safe. In the past, the servers of the kinox.to predecessor kino.to were checked.

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