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Free Wifi Providers Not Responsible for Copyright Pirates

Susan HallRetailers in Birmingham offering free WiFi to customers can breathe a sigh of relief as a new ruling has stated they will not be held liable for damages or costs resulting from a customer using their network to break copyright.

As a result of the ruling, anyone offering free WiFi to customers now cannot be held liable for damages or costs if a customer uses their network illegally to access or distribute infringing content.

However, locations or retailers who are seen to have had their free networks repeatedly used for copyright infringement could risk a Court ordering them to impose password protection on their WiFi network, and possibly ordering them to verify user identities via their mobile phone before granting password access.

The ruling handed down in the case of McFadden v Sony Entertainment by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) relates to a case where a retailer in Germany, who offered free wireless internet to customers, had a copyrighted song uploaded to the internet through his network without his knowledge by an anonymous patron.

Susan Hall, technology law partner at Clarke Willmott LLP said: “This is a great relief for venues such as conference centres, cafes, hotels, and any public location that offers free WiFi to customers.

“There used to be real fear that if their customers committed any infringing acts – such as pirating video games – using their WiFi, they could be liable.

“This ruling decisively shows that venue operators supplying free WiFi are now on a level playing field with internet service providers in respect of protection from liability for acts carried out by their customers without their knowledge.

“Hopefully it will encourage the spread of fast, free WiFi to keep us all connected when on the move.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 09:24

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