German Court Says That Open WiFi Owners Not Responsible For File Sharing Done By Others

from the good-ruling dept

There's been plenty of back and forth over the years concerning the question of whether or not an open WiFi network makes the owner of that network liable for or protected from charges of file sharing by others on that network. Since the entertainment industry can only trace back to the access point, but has no idea who's using that access point, some have always contested that an open WiFi network is a defense against charges of file sharing, since it could be anyone doing the sharing. Others contend that the owners of the open network should be liable for any crimes committed on that network.

A German court has now ruled that open WiFi network owners are not responsible for actions committed by other users on their network. This overrules a lower court decision, which the entertainment industry had been using to threaten people whose IP addresses turned up in file sharing sweeps. This doesn't mean that the owner of the network won't still be hauled off to court, or that they won't eventually be found guilty of infringement -- but if the person can present evidence that others used the network, then they have a defense against charges of file sharing. This seems like a reasonable ruling that hopefully other courts will follow as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Liquid, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 7:28am

    This is all well and good BUT:

    Again this is all well and good, but if everyone took time to secure their routers in the first place then we wouldn't have to worry about such things. Start off my turning off the Broadcast of your SSID, then do encryption, etc. until you are sure that no one can see your router. That would mean that people would have to take the time to set all of this up. If you think about from my classes that I took in college for network security I really doubt that a black hat would sit out in front of or near someones hour for days if not weeks on end waiting for golden packets to bust the encryption. The benefits would in my mind would not out weigh the costs.

     

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  2.  
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    Evil Mike, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 7:32am

    Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    Some of us believe in "abundance in sharing."

    Anybody in range of my wifi router may have free wireless access. It may be locked down to 1Mb/sec, but it's present and free to all who have nothing better available.

     

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  3.  
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    Mike Allen, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    It is all well and good but any one with vista will not log on their own network if the computer does see the broadcast SSID we tried this and vista machines would not log on even though XP and Linux machines did.

     

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  4.  
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    James, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 7:41am

    Wow... a common sense ruling?

    Whats the world coming to, even? This is very good news, could you imagine being charged w/some crime because someone else used your phone w/o your knowledge and did something illegally?

    And yes, #1 I agree you can lock down your router but not everyone who buys one has that knowledge.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Jim, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:06am

    Re: Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    Absolutely. The benefits of living in a community that shares with each other far outweigh the potential for misdeeds (IMHO).

    If you have unlimited bandwidth, why not give a trickle to neighbors and passersby? Lord knows that I've been saved a time or two by some kind stranger leaving their network open, and I am happy whenever I parse my logs and see that somebody has benefited from my open network.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:09am

    Re: Wow... a common sense ruling?

    And some people DO have the knowledge to lock it down, but choose not to because they want to be good to their fellow man.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:12am

    With what I am being charged for broadband, I intend to spread the wealth...come one come all, share share away!!!

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Genny Pershing, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:20am

    What Benefits?

    "The benefits would in my mind would not out weigh the costs."

    What Benefits? Securing one's own WAP poses almost no benefits to the WAP owner -- in the case at hand, the benefit would be for copyright owners (Making sure that Bono has a bigger pile of money to play in). The problem with the "secure your WAP or else" movement is that most of the horrors of open WAPs are speculative or are not harms / benefits to the WAP owner. So in the words of commentor #1, yip, "The benefits would not out weigh the costs."

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Gutless Wonder, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:29am

    Re: What Benefits?

    Securing one's own WAP poses almost no benefits to the WAP owner . . .

    There are a lot of stupid, uninformed comments on TechDirt, but this one might be the stupidest ever. There are no benefits to securing one's wireless network?

    A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You're exactly the kind of dumbass I'm looking for.

    You obviously don't know a fucking thing about wireless networks, encryption or security. Go read a book about networks, security and wireless encryption, before making uninformed, stupid comments.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:31am

    Re: Wow... a common sense ruling?

    Furthermore, I think that this is not a debate about the pros and cons of leaving your wifi open. I think that whether or not you secure your wifi (by choice or ignorance) should not be a liability due to the actions of others.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Thebigbluecheez, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:48am

    Yeah, but...

    Have you ever tried to find an open wireless network in Germany? It's nearly impossible! Most ISPs, when you get wireless, give you a wi-fi router/modem that has encryption enabled by default and has the key printed on the bottom.

    About the only place you can get free, open wifi is burger king. Even students in university housing don't (as a rule) leave their networks open.

    BUT this is a good ruling. You shouldn't be surprised, though. What did you expect from a legal system like Germany's, anyway?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Ben, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 8:49am

    it's tough

    It's tough to control an entire world.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:16am

    Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    It wouldn't take days let alone weeks to crack WEP or even WPA. We're talking hours in most situations, as one typically isn't forced to brute-force the key.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Touche, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: What Benefits?

    Cleverly argued: in one fell swoop you not only present us factual evidence of actual benefits to the WAP owner, but also soundly destroy the GP's argument and demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter. You are both a gentleman and a scholar. I applaud you.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Fu Man Chu Porter House, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    What the fuck are you rambling about?

    If you are saying that Vista will not associate with an access point that has the SSID Broadcast disabled, you need to put down the crack pipe and pick up the manual.

    Straight retarded.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Fu Man Chu Porter House, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    Another retard.

    You can crack wep in minutes brother. Especially if you are using two wireless clients.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Gutless Wonder, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Re: What Benefits?

    Please, Oh Enlightened One, explain the benefits of unsecured wireless to us, the poor, unwashed masses. We beg you to explain to us the intricacies of wireless networking, right here, in the comments section of this blog. Please explain to us how, exactly, the WAP owner benefits from NOT securing their network. Won't you? Please? Or maybe, you don't really know?

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What Benefits?

    Wow, he even attacks those who agree with him.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Fu Man Chu Porter House, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What Benefits?

    Because when they come to sue your ass you can say it was your neighbor sharing those DVDRs!!!! Now that, is a benefit if I have ever heard.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What Benefits?

    The claim wasn't made about unsecured networks, but open wireless access. You can have open access to a wireless access point and still have a secure network through logical and/or physical measures.

    Also:

    You said there's benefit to locking down an access point. We dispute that. Saying there isn't benefit for doing X isn't the same as saying there IS benefit in doing the opposite of X.

    Also:

    You have a lot of venom and no substance. What's the point in wasting your time here if you've nothing to contribute?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 10:44am

    Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    Very smart. Those who know how to do that did that already. However, I'd say 70-90% of users are clueless about that blinking box with antennas. And since most routers come open by default, there is an abundance of free internet in the cities.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    I know how to do that and choose not to, for the same "share and share alike" reasons others have noted. I've been saved several times on the road by open WiFi, and even if those were accidentally open I conciously offer the same to passers by.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    These comments

    are why we can't have nice things.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Liquid, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    Thank you. Yes that's completely true a lot of wireless users do not know how to protect them selves of people who would want to maliciously use their wireless network connection. People that want to let others use their open wireless hers is something recently that you might want to read over, and make sure that you're willing to do this.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9829759-38.html?hhTest=1

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2008 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is all well and good BUT:

    So congress made a dumb law. It wasn't the first, it's not the last. I defy you to try and enforce it, especially in cases regarding private citizens.

    The misses the whole point, though. What's so wrong with me offering access to the Internet access I'm paying for?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    r. decline, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    open and free

    its nice to see so many other people leaving their network open for others to use. was starting to think i was the only one. i tend to approach it from a "what right do i have to claim and lock down the air" sort of view...after all i shout down the FCC every chance i get. honestly if you don't want to share your broadband, don't broadcast it. they do still make cables.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 10:38pm

    Re: Wow... a common sense ruling?

    And yes, #1 I agree you can lock down your router but not everyone who buys one has that knowledge.
    Then they should hire someone who does.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    high risk merchant, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 10:34am

    great info

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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