How It Feels… To Be Sued By The German Government

3.13.2017

By Tom Quinley, 23, as told to Maddy Moloney

How It Feels2

The phone call was unexpected. I had just gotten back from Germany a couple weeks earlier, so the fact Manu Euen was calling was strange. He was my old roommate, an exchange student from Stuttgart, Germany who I had just traveled to visit.  “Did you download any movies while you were here…illegally?” he asked.

Gulp.

I had downloaded “Selma” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” using a file sharing website while at Manu’s home and put them onto his computer. Crap movies by the way, ones I never even finished.

Unbeknownst to me, Germany takes copyright laws very seriously. The German government was suing my roommate, on behalf of me, 1,800 Euros, which equates to nearly 2,000 American dollars.

That phone call did offer Manu some relief. He was happy he had gotten to the bottom of who had downloaded the movies. Under German law, whoever the computer IP number is registered to will be found at fault for anything illegal done using that web address.

Agitated, I told Manu I would handle it and had him forward me the legal document. Then I took the documents and copied and pasted them into Google Translate to try to understand what was going on. I remembered back to the last day of my First Amendment law class where my professor offered free legal advice to any of his students.

Penniless and with few options, I turned to my professor for help. He suggested hiring a German lawyer to get the lawsuit name me as the defendant instead of Manu, in hopes of freeing him from the mess and then making it tougher for Germany to get through the United States legal system.

So through odd jobs, involving the selling of my plasma, I scraped up $800 and sent it to a German lawyer he found online, who I was told not to contact. And just like that the whole situation disappeared. Neither my friend nor I were ever contacted again.

 

 

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