German supreme court fines owner of open WiFi network

By EDRi · May 19, 2010

Article corrected on 22.05.2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Deutscher Bundesgerichtshof: Geldstrafe für Besitzer von ungesicherten WLAN-Netzen |]

The Federal Supreme Court in Germany (Bundesgerichtshof (BGH)) has ruled in
a case where an illegal download took place via an low-protected wireless Internet
Access point, that the owner of the which should have secure it with a stronger

In this case, it was an intellectual property related issue with a musician
asking for damages because a piece of music was illegally downloaded and
later on made available via a file-sharing network.

But the owner of the WiFi network could prove that he was away on
holiday and someone else used his wireless network, that was protected only by the password that was installed in the production.

BGH indicated that, in this case, he should have switched off or
sufficiently protect the network. Since this did not happen, he was
awarded a fine for negligence and the fine was set to a maximum of 100
Euros. (that is a default in cases of non-business activities) This ruling makes now clear that damages cannot be claimed in
Germany from a WiFi owner.

A similar case in Denmark in 2008 had a contrary decision. In that situation
the women who allegedly infringed Intellectual property rights was the
owner of an open wireless connection. She was not found guilty though
because it was not clear if she was the person actually responsible for the
infringement, or any other member of the family or a guest that used the
open WiFi.

In UK, Professor Lilian Edwards of Sheffield University warned that
according to the recent Digital Economy Bill, users might be responsible for
other people’s use of their networks to infringe copyright.

German court fines man who failed to secure his Wi-Fi network

BGH restricts consequences of disturber liability for wireless operators

Danish WiFi Case – 2008 (only in Danish 5.09.2008)