Free Wi-Fi: German court overruled fines for coffee shops for copyright-infringement of customers

    In July of this year, the Federal Supreme Court of Germany put an end to the legal concept of the Störerhaftung (which can be translated as “failure to fulfill network maintenance obligations”). This law stated that the responsibility for downloading pirated content by users of public Wi-Fi is assigned to the organization that provided access to the network (cafe, hotel, etc.).

    A court ruling should lead to an increase in the number of points with free wireless Internet access in the country.

    Details under the cut.

    / PxHere / the PD

    Störerhaftung - what is the point?

    In 2010, the German Supreme Criminal Court placed the responsibility for downloading pirated content on wireless network owners. The legislative act was called Störerhaftung. He says that the owner of a restaurant (or any other establishment) that provides free Wi-Fi to its customers will be fined 100 euros if someone from the visitors downloads pirated content (violates someone’s copyright).

    It is because of the Störerhaftung in Germany two times less cafes with free Wi-Fi than in the UK or Norway. Throughout the country, for every 10 thousand. Man fallsjust two free access points to the network. For example, among the few such points you can mention the so-called Godspots, which opened several Protestant churches in Berlin. The goal of the project: to distribute Wi-Fi in three thousand churches in order to cover the largest area of ​​the country with a network.

    Why the law was repealed

    The reason for the cancellation of the Störerhaftung was a case that occurred with the operator of two TOR network nodes. He had several Wi-Fi points, and someone used this network to distribute a pirated copy of the game Dead Island. Since it is almost unrealistic to calculate the attacker in such cases, the copyright holder, the developer company of Deep Silver, has sued the network’s owner with a claim to pay damages in the amount of one thousand euros .

    The defendant filed a counterclaim and pleaded not guilty. According to the results, the Federal Supreme Court of Germany took his side.

    / PxHere / PD

    And, after some time, the Bundestag approved the amendments to the law, according to which the owners of hot spots are exempt from liability for copyright violations committed by users of their networks.

    First, Wi-Fi-providers have crept into fears that the law does not comply with Directive 2004/48 / EC “On the exercise of intellectual property rights”. It states that the right holder must pay compensation for damages incurred as a result of copyright infringement. However, the Federal Supreme Court of Germany dispelled these concerns .

    This should encourage entrepreneurs to open more free Wi-Fi points.

    Part of the fines remained

    Wi-Fi providers cannot simply give away free Wi-Fi. They are required to properly protect this network. For example, back to the “long-playing” case from Dead Island. Although the Federal Supreme Court of Germany dismissed all copyright infringement charges against the owner of the hot-spots, he received a fine for failing to protect the network properly .

    This is a mandatory clause in both the new German law and the EU directive. Among the necessary protective measures are listed: blocking access to anonymous resources (for example, file sharing), registering all users, encrypting passwords, etc.

    What's next

    The 2017 law still has to be tested by the European Court, but this is more of a formality: in 2016 this court has already considered a similar case and decided that Wi-Fi providers are not responsible for copyright infringement by third parties. Therefore, we can assume that now entrepreneurs will be more willing to organize free hot spots.

    Note that in the EU, in principle, seek to increase the coverage of Wi-Fi-networks. To do this, they launched the WiFi4EU project , which will have to “bring” free Wi-Fi to public places. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised that all of Europe will be provided with hot spots by 2020.

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