EU Court: Wi-Fi providers not responsible for illegal downloads

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The EU Court of Justice’s ruling exonerates businesses from paying fines when customers break the law online. Critics say that its stipulations will discourage the spread of free internet access in Europe.

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a decision freeing businesses that provide free Wi-Fi internet access to their customers from being held responsible for copyright infringement committed by their patrons’ downloads. The decision by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg serves as a new precedent in case law across the European Union.

In 2010, Sony had brought legal proceedings against a shopkeeper in Germany aftter a customer used free internet access to illegally download a music album covered by Sony’s copyright stipulations.

The court found that the owner of the business had no say in the perpetrator’s decision to illegal download the data in question.

The European Court of Justice did concede, however, that those providing free online access could be obliged secure their networks with a password or to have users sign in with their names to establish their identities.

‘Partial win’

The district court in Munich, which initially was in charge of the case, had turned to the CJEU to ask for assistance in the case, as the alleged copyright infringement was covered by European law.

The owner of the shop meanwhile commented that he found the court decision to be “disappointing” as it would serve as a further hindrance to establishing free Wi-Fi across Europe. He referred to the ruling as a “partial win.”

ss/kms (dpa, epd, AFP)