Not Warning Kid About Piracy Makes Father Liable, Court Rules

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A German court has ruled that a father is liable for an audiobook his 11-year old son downloaded. The man told the kid to only use the computer for school purposes and not to simply download things. However, the court ruled that this was not a proper anti-piracy instruction.

Over the past decade, copyright holders have gone after hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates in Germany, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

The targeted account holder is sometimes the perpetrator, but it could also be another member of the household or even a complete stranger, if the Wi-Fi network is unsecured.

In a case before a Leipzig court the defendant denied having downloaded an audiobook, as he wasn’t home at the time of the infringement. His wife and 11-year-old son were, and as the case progressed it became clear that the latter was the offender.

Nonetheless, in a rather unique verdict the court decided to hold the father liable. Although it’s not uncommon for parents to be held responsible for the actions of their children, the court specifically referenced a lack of anti-piracy education.

In his defense, the father argued that he’d asked his son to keep any Internet activity limited to school purposes, a statement that was backed up by the man’s partner. In addition, the 11-year-old was warned not to download random things or do anything dangerous.

However, according to the court’s verdict, this doesn’t count as an adequate instruction since it lacks a specific explanation as to what illegal downloads are.

In her order the judge writes that for proper parental supervision, it’s required to “instruct a child on the illegality of participating in illegal file-sharing exchanges, and to explicitly prohibit this behavior.”

The court characterizes the father’s behavior as “negligent” and doesn’t rule out the possibility that the instruction to limit the son’s Internet to school purposes, was made up to avoid punishment.

As a result, the man was found guilty and must now pay 956 euros in damages and legal costs. He still has an option to appeal the case at a higher court.

The copyright holder, who’s not named in the redacted verdict (pdf), was represented by the German lawfirm Waldorf Frommer, who are widely known for pursuing file-sharers around the country.

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