Now A German Court Says Open WiFi Owner Is Responsible For What Others Do On WiFi

from the courts-disagree dept

Remember just over a week ago the good news coming out of Germany concerning an appeals court ruling that noted (properly) that the owner of an open WiFi access point was not liable for actions done by others on that WiFi? Well, apparently there’s a bit of a “split” in the German courts. An anonymous reader sends us notice of a news report out of Germany with a lower level court apparently ruling in the exact opposite way (link in German, translations welcome; here’s Google’s translation). From what the submitter and the translation suggest, the court claims that it’s the responsibility of the access point owner to secure the WiFi, and if they do not, they have to take on some liability for what happens on that system. There’s no question, apparently, that the owners of the WiFi system did not actually share the file in question. They showed they were not at home at the time of the alleged infringement, and they had no file sharing software on their computer. While the case isn’t yet over, the owners of the WiFi access point have to pay court costs, lawyers fees and the amount they were sued for… and they may face criminal prosecution as well.

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Comments on “Now A German Court Says Open WiFi Owner Is Responsible For What Others Do On WiFi”

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21 Comments
The Traveler says:

German Idiocy!

I know of someone who actually did download some copyrighted material and they sent him a message saying they caught him. He immediately DoD’d his PC and opened his WiFi, no further communication about this was sent to him.
Just because you are not computer savy enough to secure your wireless doesn’t make you liable for infractions from it. The German courts need to get someone in with a good knowledge of computers to bitch slap the judges for even thinking so! The Judges in this matter are dumber then a man proposing to his wife at a baseball game and spelling her name wrong!
~ The Traveler

rsx says:

Re: Re:

“Anyhoo, I guess if someone steals my car, I’m responsible for all the traffic infractions and property damage as well?”

You might be if you left the door unlocked and the key in the ignition. At least your insurance company might not want to compensate you.
If you own a swimming pool and don’t fence it in, you will indeed be liable if someone falls in and drowns.
You can well be liable for your omissions of safe procedures.

Spytrx says:

Re: Now A German Court Says Open WiFi Owner Is Responsible For What Others Do On WiFi

that’s already the American way of doing things…

I love it when foreign laypeople discuss a matter they have no idea about. German law is different from it’s neighbours, just like theirs is from others. Unless you actually know the legisative wording of the law you might want to keep your nose out of it.

Both courts that decided on these cases were on the same level – both local courts, with local magistrates sitting the case. There hasn’t been a testcase in Germany or anywhere else considering this so why write an article without substance in the first place? Even the author of the article admits not to have a clue and takes his information from an electronic translation program, which, as any computer savvy person knows, is bad at the best of times.

It is nice to see however how quickly the race card is played here as well…

Freedom says:

Broken Logic...

If the open WiFi person is responsible, then that means that any business with a WiFi access point could be responsible as well as an ISP. Taken even further, the makers of the software, and finally to the ultimate extreme, the government itself since it allowed you to be a citizen in its state and ultimately the ‘buck stops with them’.

So really, you see, the State should have to pay the fines and be the one sued.

Stuff like this makes me want to go find the Judge’s home, find out if his connection is unsecured and download copyrighted material.

If I have a traditional unlocked mailbox, I guess I’m responsible for anything that gets stolen out of there as well?

If you give ISPs safe harbors, then they should extend to end-node whether compromised or not.

And for all those that think it is stupid to leave your wireless open, depending on the age of your gear, there are plenty of times where the only way you can get a good connection is to disable encryption. I’ve had plenty of wireless access points/routers/firewalls that for a connection on the far part of the house wouldn’t work or work well until we disabled encryption. Never really understood it frankly, but it was a common trend especially with older gear.

What’s next, if someone breaks into my protected wireless, I’m responsible? What if someone steals my PC, am I still responsible? What if someone is visiting and they download copyrighted material, am I still responsible?

This stuff isn’t like putting a lock on your front door – it isn’t something that we’ve grown up, been taught and ‘naturally’ just understand. If you ask folks with wireless in their homes if it’s secured and how they know, you won’t like the answers because most just don’t know or understand. They just want Internet to work and everything else is usually off the radar.

Freedom

Spytrx says:

Re: If the provider is liable

Because the law doesn’t cater for that – the buck stops with the owner of the WiFi access. Plain and simple – if somebody takes an axe away from someone’s porch and then kills an animal it is the owner of the axe’s responsibility as well as that of the perpetrator: The owner neglected to secure access to the axe and is so, even if only in part, negligable.

At fault might be the manufacturer of the WiFi equipment because it does come with all the ports open and if, then with very complicated instructions on how to close them and make them save.

Ignorance is no excuse in any courtroom in the world, you know…

Shoot to Kill says:

Criminals have more rights than Homeowners.

“That is like saying a criminal broke into a house and broke his leg there and it’s the homeowners fault.”

The above has already been proved to be true in the US, at least according to our court system. There have been cases where homeowners have shot and wounded people who broke into their house (stranger in their house), the homeowners have then been sued by the criminals they shot and the courts have sided with the criminals and awarded outrageous damages….

Which just goes to show that if you are going to shoot someone on your property, make sure you kill them… and if they get off the edge of the property before they die, make sure you drag them back before the police show up. Apparently it’s perfectly legal to kill someone who trespasses on your property if you fear for your safety or if you believe you or your family may be in immediate danger from the individual (and if they are dead they aren’t going to say that they ‘walked into the wrong house by mistake and they were just admiring the valuables when the homeowner shot them for no reason (If I remember correctly the ‘burglar’ was awarded somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 for being shot in the leg/butt while trying to climb back out the window with a bag of the owners property)… Only in America.

Spytrx says:

Re: Criminals have more rights than Homeowners.

I remember a case in Arizona were the burglar fell through the roof and landed in the kitchen sink with a knife through his thigh – he successfully sued the owners and got nearly half a million dollar compensation. He never was prosecuted for breaking and entering either… Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Your Property, Your Responsibility

I think it’s fair that the owner of the access point should bear some responsibility for securing it, and for any consequent liability if it’s left insecure. With property rights come corresponding responsibilities, after all.

By the same token, owners of PCs should bear some responsibility for ensuring that they don’t become part of botnets. And if they do, they should have some liability for the damage those botnets cause.

The Dean says:

Safety of EMFs and WiFi

The greater, much more important topic here is the safety and heath risk of exposing our bodies to these WiFi signals and EMFs in general. Researchers are finding some nasty things coming from these like autism being caused by, esp when a mother is pregnant, leukemias, cancers, etc. Manufacturers are irresponsible and even criminally negligent for making and selling technologies before proving their safety. A much larger issue than cigarette smoke.

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