German court fines the owner of unsecured WLANOwners are not responsible for illegal downloads

17 May 2010

The scales of justice held up

German citizens must password-protect their wireless networks if they wish to avoid a €100 (£86) fine, the Associated Press has reported.

The German Federal Court of Justice ruling, which took place last Wednesday (May 12 2010), was made after a musician attempted to sue an internet user whose wireless network connection had been used to illegally download a music track which was then distributed over the internet via a file sharing network.

The Karlsruhe-based court decided that as the owner of the wi-fi could prove that he was on holiday at the time of the alleged copyright infringement, he could not have downloaded the track himself.

Been wrongly accused of illegal file-sharing? See our advice on how to respond

However, it rule that by failing to password protect his connection, he was partially responsible for a third party’s misuse of his system. ‘Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorised third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation,’ the court said.

The news agency reported that the court stopped short of holding users responsible for the illegal activities of third parties, since they could not be expected to constantly update their wireless connection’s security. They were only required to protect their internet access, by setting up a password when they first install it.

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