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.

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Comments on “German Court Says That Open WiFi Owners Not Responsible For File Sharing Done By Others”

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Liquid says:

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.

Jim says:

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.

Liquid says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

James says:

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.

Genny Pershing (user link) says:

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.”

Gutless Wonder says:

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?


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.

Gutless Wonder says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.


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.


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

Thebigbluecheez says:

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?

r. decline (profile) says:

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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