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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Germany: open WiFi after all?

Following the opinion of Advocate General Szpunar in the pending McFadden case (C-484/14, IPKat post), the German coalition government has decided to abandon the "Störerhaftung" of providers of open WiFi Networks for illegal use of the Internet access by users of the hot spot.

Under current German law, the provider of an unsecured WiFi hotspot is not liable for financial damages for copyright infringement committed by users of the hotspot, but he can be enjoined from providing unsecured access that is used for unlawful purposes. In practice, the provider of an open hotspot who
Cats love WiFi routers... mostly for their heat emissions
receives a cease and desist letter claiming that copyright infringement occurred using his hotspot has to pay the legal fees of the copyright owner, which can easily be EUR 1,000 to 2,000. Consequently, nobody in Germany leaves their WiFi access unsecured. Since AG Szpunar believes that forcing the Provider of a hotspot to secure the access by requiring a password is contrary to Article 12 ECommerce Directive, the current German law is arguably not compatible with EU law.

The German government therefore decided to clear the situation. Under the proposed law, non-commercial providers of unsecured WiFi access points would be shielded also from injunctive relief. According to Spiegel Online the law could come into effect as early as this fall.

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