A German court has ruled that Internet users operating a WiFi router are not responsible if others use their equipment to infringe copyright on P2P networks. The news is likely to be seen as yet another blow for lawyers Davenport Lyons who have been insisting that German law decisions would be mirrored in the UK.
All around Europe there are instances of individuals receiving demands for compensation due to the fact that their open WiFi routers have been used by others to infringe copyright.
Now, a new judgment has come from the Frankfurt court of appeal. The judges have decided that the owner of an Internet connection is not responsible for copyright infringements carried out without their knowledge on their open WiFi. The same court already ruled that parents are not responsible for copyright infringements carried out by their children.
Lawyers representing copyright holders have long insisted that it is the responsibility of the bill payer to ensure that nothing illegal happens on his connection by taking technical measures to stop unauthorized access by a 3rd party. The plaintiff in this case stated that the IP address of the defendant was tracked making unauthorized uploads of copyright works and demanded damages. The defendant had insisted that not only was he innocent but also away on vacation at the time of the alleged offense.
Regular readers of TorrentFreak will know that lawyers Davenport Lyons in the UK have been sending out many letters which accuse people of copyright infringement when, through ignorance or simple generosity, have simply left their WiFi open for others to use. Davenport state that a previous German court decision has ruled that users are responsible for the infringing actions of others on their Internet connection, and in their opinion UK courts would rule the same. This is the ruling that the Frankfurt court has just over-ruled.
Given this decision, further recipients of Davenport letters should expect to see these comments about open-WiFi liability removed, at least until the highest court in Germany has had the opportunity to review the situation. Describing the decision in Frankfurt as “sensational”, Christian Solmecke, a lawyer currently defending around 500 file-sharers told TorrentFreak: “The future will show us what the highest court in Germany – the Bundesgerichtshof – says to this difficult question.”