15 September 2016Copyright

Shop owner not liable in Sony Wi-Fi copyright case

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that a German shop owner who offers a free Wi-Fi network to the public is not liable for his users’ copyright infringement.

Today, September 15, the CJEU ruled in favour of Tobias Mc Fadden, an owner of a lighting and sound system shop who offers free Wi-Fi to the public in order to draw attention to his goods and services.

The case concerns a musical work which was unlawfully “offered for downloading” via the internet connection in 2010.

Sony Music had claimed that Mc Fadden infringed its copyright.

The case was brought before the Munich Regional Court, which took the view that Mc Fadden did not infringe Sony’s copyright.

The court said Mc Fadden was not the actual party who infringed the copyright, but found he was indirectly liable on the ground that his Wi-Fi network had not been secured.

As the Munich Regional Court had doubts over whether the e-commerce directive (2000/31/EC) precluded such indirect liability, questions were referred to the CJEU.

The court held that because the Wi-Fi network was available free of charge to draw attention to the goods and services of the shop,  the shop is an “information society service” under the directive.

It also held that a service provider such as Mc Fadden who provides access to a communication network may not be held liable and, because of this, Sony cannot claim compensation on the grounds that the network was used by third parties to infringe its rights.

Finally, the court ordered that the internet connection is secured with a password to ensure a “balance” between intellectual property rights owners and “the freedom to conduct a business of access providers and the freedom of information of the network users”.

This measure is capable of deterring network users from infringing IP rights, the court ruled.

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