Danish File-Sharers Not Responsible For Wi-Fi Theft

Two Danish women taken to court by IFPI affiliates for sharing music were found to be innocent. The two claimed they were the victim of WiFi theft, had no knowledge of the alleged infringements and therefore shouldn't have to pay the damages. The court agreed and acquitted them of all charges.

Some time ago, two women from Denmark, both of which later admitted to having P2P software on their computers, received letters from IFPI anti-piracy affiliates Antipiratgruppen, claiming that they had been engaging in the unauthorized uploading of copyrighted musical works. According to reports, the letters demanded compensation – $30,000 and $32,000 respectively respectively.

The cases went to court and were heard this Friday, and to the file-sharing masses of Denmark, it turned out to be a very important day. The women did not deny the claims that unauthorized file-sharing had taken place on their Internet connections but stated clearly that they were not the ones carrying it out.

They claimed that their Wi-Fi had been piggybacked by persons unknown but the music industry didn’t care. Rather like the lawyers chasing the UK’s alleged pinball pirates, they asserted that an Internet subscriber is responsible for what others do on their connection, and it was up to the women to prove that they had not shared music with others. The court didn’t agree and acquitted the women of all charges.

Lawyer Per Overbeck told Ritzau: “It is an unusually clear and precise judgement. It is the plaintiff, who has the burden of proof. Many who have received letters with claims have been given the impression that they were required to pay. But we now have the court’s word for that, they do not [have to pay]. It is not enough to say that you are guilty of piracy due to owning a particular Internet access point.”

Piratgruppen, a pro-sharing group and antithesis of Antipiratgruppen, was delighted with the verdict, with spokesman Sebastian Gjerding inviting the anti-piracy outfit to drop all claims of compensation against file-sharers.

“They can not continue to send these demands to people. Antipiratgruppen and the IFPI should send an apology instead. It is an absurd claim that an Internet subsciber must take responsibility for the actions of others. Many networks can be attacked and abused.”

Antipiratgruppen, on the other hand, thinks this is a bad decision by the court and refuses to send out apologies. Their lawyer, Torben Steffensen, says this is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide. “We do not believe that this law is appropriate and we disagree with this decision,” he said. “There should be a law that protects artists from losing income due to piracy. Therefore we would like to have the Supreme Court deal with the issue.”

However, lawyers for the two women doubt the case will end up in the Supreme Court, since a lower court and now the High Court has ruled in the same way – it is the plaintiff who has the burden of proof.

There was a similar decision in Germany recently, and if Topware Interactive and Davenport Lyons have the guts to take on a defendant in the UK who actually fights back with a ‘wireless defense‘, there could be one there too:

“The onus is on the party bringing the action to convince the court on a balance of probabilities that the person being sued is responsible for the infringement,” says Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with prominent law firm Pinsent Masons. “The legal wrong isn’t that you left your network open, it’s the file-sharing.”

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