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Open WiFi Owners Off the Hook In Germany

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the gefehlt-mir dept.

The Courts 215

ulash writes "Ars Technica reports that a court in Germany ruled in favor of an open WiFi network owner stating that if other users use your open WiFi network without your consent and download copyrighted material, you cannot be automatically held responsible for their actions. This does not carry much (if any) weight in the US but here is to hoping that it will at least have a positive impact in the EU as starters."

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Hmmm... (5, Interesting)

darklich14 (1308567) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149229)

Do taxpayers get reprimanded for drug trafficking done on roads their tax dollars pay for? So why should someone providing network access be reprimanded for illegal action done by someone else on their connection? Who knows.

Re:Hmmm... (2, Insightful)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149239)

Yes, this is certainly a sensible decision... let's hope similar precedents are set everywhere, or we're not going to have much free wi-fi around.

Re:Hmmm... (5, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149347)

Sure it makes sense, otherwise all the ISP's become responsible for the child pornography flowing over their pipes. Unless there are different rules for corporations than for individual citizens. There aren't, right?

Anyway, rulings like this is why the MPAA and RIAA are busy trying to get governments around the world to remove any kind of 'safe harbour/transport' provisions from their laws, both under the guise of saving the children as well as saving that small band/filmmaker at home, whose work is being mercilessly pirated by every Tom, Dick and Harriet around the world.

Re:Hmmm... (1, Interesting)

xalorous (883991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149539)

In an attempt to stop child pornography, I agree that the government (at least in the U.S.) will try to make the last mile ISP's responsible for blocking it. Since so many consider it the worst evil in the world, we in the U.S. may find ourselves looking at another situation where, in an attempt to stop one instance of something bad, we give up freedom over a wide range of situations. I also agree that the 'studios' will lobby to pass any legislation they can sponsor through, in order to twist it to their purposes.

In the vein of Big Money and Big Oil, welcome to the age of Big Multinational Conglomerate.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149721)

Why should the opertor of the network be forced to enforce the law? They should cooperate with law enforcement officers, help them when possible and implement guidelines, but policing the network is not something I would like to trust a private company wit.

We have public officials in charge of airport security and police on private roads, why should Internet traffic be different?

Re:Hmmm... (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150027)

absolutely excellent observation, thanks!

Re:Hmmm... (4, Funny)

Zemran (3101) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149905)

I have also heard that paedophiles take children to hotels so we should ban children from hotels and often they take them to restaurants first, so we should ban children from restaurants as well. I am sure that with a bit of lobbying I could get a quiet life out of this...

Re:Hmmm... (3, Funny)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149931)

I think strict regulation requiring cameras in every room and a special inspector in every hotel who checks everyone entering for pedophilic tendencies is the only answer.
Hotel owners and landlords should be charged with rape if they allow someone to rent a room who later has sex with a minor in there.
it's for the children after all.

Re:Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149689)

Unless there are different rules for corporations than for individual citizens. There aren't, right?

I see you're new here!

Re:Hmmm... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149443)

The problem here is that you need someone else to admit using your connection to download illegal files - just like if someone else is driving your car and gets caught in a speed trap. If he doesn't admit, you will have to pay the ticket.

Having an open WiFi won't be a freeride to download illegal files as it is impossible to proof that it was open to begin with.

So just like getting a speeding ticket (by mail), where you can check a box that someone else was using your car (in Germany anyway + you have to provide name and adress), future letters regarding copyright violation might have the same check box.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149639)

It is likely that I know the person in the photo who was driving my car.

It is not likely I know who connected to my wireless router.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149803)

By law you are required to know who is in control of your car, their name, adress etc. This was ruled not to be the case for open wireless.

It would help to show that a different computer was using the network in such a situation. With a WiFi network, it's as simple as having the router send a record via email.

Re:Hmmm... (3, Interesting)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149839)

... By law you are required to know who is in control of your car, their name, adress etc ...

So, what you are saying is, if your car is stolen, you get charged with not knowing who was driving it? I hope you were being sarcastic.

Re:Hmmm... (3, Insightful)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149953)

The usual analogy collision between cars and the digital world.

Your car is a costly, potentially lethal piece of machinery. That's why you lock the doors and have a anti-theft device installed. If it gets stolen it is gone and you probably know that it's missing within a few days.

Your Internet connection is a cheap commodity and you may never knew if someone used your connection without your consent. Sure it may "kill music!!!11eleven" and you gotta "think of the children" but it's not terribly dangerous to leave the router open. That's why many people do.

Most cheap routers have a fixed log size or don't keep the logs when powered off. You have no chance at all to prove it was someone else using your connection just as the court has no chance at all to prove it was you. As long as the courts honor "In dubio pro reo", you're pretty much safe unless of course you have plenty of knowledge of networks or a PhD in computer science. Then you're hosed because you surely knew what you were doing...

Re:Hmmm... (3, Interesting)

VdG (633317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149829)

It doesn't make it clear in the article whether there was actual evidence that someone else had used the guy's network, or whether that was just a possibility. That makes quite a difference, I think. It makes sense to me that people should not be required to secure their networks, any more than they're required to lock their homes. But I'd also think that you'd have to have at least a smidgin of evidence that someone was using your unsecured network for their nefarious deeds if you were to get off.

On a slightly different track, whilst one is not generally required to lock one's front door, (although don't count on getting insurance if you don't), I think I'm correct in saying that in some places there are things you ARE required to secure. I'm thinking in particular of firearms: don't some states require gun owners to keep them secured? Certainly some places outside the USA do. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to extend that principle to other resources with which people could commit crimes, or inadvertently come to harm.

Of course, you'd then have to define how much security is required. Just a token effort? Or something which could actually withstand a concerted effort to gain access? One key difference between a house and a WiFi network is that it's difficult to enter someone else's house inadvertently, whereas many computers will connect to an open network automatically, or needing no more than a slip of the finger when choosing which network to use.

Could we see a requirement to log access to a wireless network, like an ISP? If you're deliberately running an open network then you are effectively acting as an ISP for all and sundry. Should you be subject to the same regulation?

Re:Hmmm... (4, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149897)

If I have a second home which get's broken into while I'm away and is used by the squatters for a mail scam am I liable for what they do?
The packets are coming from my house with my return address yet I'm not the one sending them.
(equivilent to someone hacking your network)

If I lock my door but there's a lose window people can get in should I be a criminal for not securing it properly? (kinda like using WEP)

If I'm just a hippy who doesn't believe in locking my door because "it's like.... a barrier to people man." should I be subject to the same regulation as hotels,hostels and landlords?

Re:Hmmm... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149969)

Have you already chained down all the cobblestones in your frontyard? Those dangerous things can be used to kill somebody, you know!

Re:Hmmm... (1)

VdG (633317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150035)

I was suggesting possibilities, not advocating them.

Still, despite your fatuous comment, if the postman tripped over the cobbles on his way to my door I could be held liable - in this country, anyway. Household insurance usually covers such things.

Re:Hmmm... (2, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150121)

Yes but that's not someone using your property for something malicious, that's someone getting hurt because you haven't maintained your path properly and you have your mailbox located such that the postman has to walk over it to give you your letter.
Tripping over a cobblestone would be more like if my wifi was set to some weird frequency which knocked out the pacemakers of passers by. sure then I'd probably be liable. and rightly so.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

xalorous (883991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149495)

Horrible analogy.

Because paying tax dollars is not a threat... (1)

getuid() (1305889) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149695) your government, since it doesn't directly promote free speech. Offering anonymous internet access to random persons passing by your house *does* promote free speech, and *is* thus a possible threat to your government.


Re:Hmmm... (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149797)

That's not a good analogy - your tax dollars may pay for the roads, but you have no direct say in who uses them or how. With a wi-fi router you at least have the means available to you to (try to) prevent other people from using it, assuming you have the requisite knowledge.

Not that I disagree with the decision at all, just with your analogy :)

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

richlv (778496) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149845)

With a wi-fi router you at least have the means available to you to (try to) prevent other people from using it, assuming you have the requisite knowledge.

but why should i ?
that's a sharing. sharing some resource, some knowledge or whatever.
i'd compare this to hitchhiking. if you take a hitchhiker who happens to be in the posession of something illegal, should you be held responsible ?

Re:Hmmm... (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150143)

That's the wrong analogy. A better one is owning a driveway without a gate at the end, and having someone do something illegal on the drive. Since you didn't put fences and gates at the end of the drive, you are liable for whatever they did. Or, worse, an organisation like a church which explicitly allows people to use their grounds - they would be liable for anything illegal that happens in the churchyard. Obviously they are not, but some lawmakers think it should be different when it comes to the Internet.

Nice loophole (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149235)

Step 1:get wifi router and leave it open
step 2:use other people's wifi
step 3:instant immunity for all

Re:Nice loophole (4, Insightful)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149399)

So if I borrow your ladder, use it to get into someone's house, you should be held partly accountable. Don't be silly.

This might make it easier to do "bad things" and not get caught,but that fact alone cannot make the owner of the open router liable. That's just silly!

Re:Nice loophole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149783)

Isn't there some paragraph in ISP's AGBs regarding the sharing of the connection. I don't think mine does allow me to share the connection with infinite numbers of random people. It's more like someone borrows your company ID card with your knowledge to get access to your work facility to make copies of some documents, in which case you are partly responsible because your work contract states that you are not allowed to give someone else your ID.

Re:Nice loophole (1)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149853)

Yeah, many ISPs do this. In this case you're right, you'd be in "breach of contract". Again, your liability would be tied to "reasonable" expectation. If the court found you should have taken "reasonable steps" to protect the connection and "adding security" to your WiFi is a "reasonable step" then not doing so could be viewed as "breach of contract".

Personally I tend to agree with you. But I do think that WiFi makers don't make security very easy for consumers.

Personally I don't think a WiFi basestation should function "out of the box" with no security. I think it should walk you through the setup, and to "open" it should be a choice the user should have to make, not the default.

It's easy for us readers of /. to pontificate about users not closing their WiFi, but these things are sold in stores to non-computer savvy consumers, why would they know?

Re:Nice loophole (2, Informative)

EvilAlphonso (809413) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149907)

So if I borrow your ladder, use it to get into someone's house, you should be held partly accountable. Don't be silly.

Actually yeah, if you borrow something from me and use it to break the law I do share responsability in the eye of the law in most countries. If you take something from me without my approval, on the other hand...

Re:Nice loophole (3, Insightful)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149945)

Only if I tell you what I'm doing with the ladder.

Re:Nice loophole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149469)

Except that you are still liable for downloading.

The step 3 would be: free wifi for all??? and step 4: profit!!!

Re:Nice loophole (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149687)

Except that you are NEVER liable for *downloading*.
It's the uploading that's disallowed.

Same should go for drugs. As far as I know this is already the case for some weaker drugs here in germany.

I'm shocked at how much disinformation even got to the eraders of slashdot, who read the articles every day...

If someone could translate the text of he has very nice overviews about the matter.

Re:Nice loophole (1)

project-nova (930308) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149613)

Using other people's wifi doesn't get you instant immunity, you're still liable for your own actions. This ruling simply states that you can't be held responsible for *other people* downloading copyrighted material over your connection.

Re:Nice loophole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149675)


step 1: get wifi router and leave it open
step 2: download movies, games, CP - you name it
step 3: there really is no step 3. you`re immune by this point - remember step 1?

Re:Nice loophole (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149703)


not so sure about that (0, Offtopic)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150055)

step 3:instant immunity for all

How do you prove that the downloads went any farther than your own system?

You aren't looking at immunity, you are looking at the geek's fair-weather friend, "plausible deniability."

Two words that can make your lawyer cringe - even after calling his wife to tell her that the new kitchen "is a go."

The story that sells to a jury isn't always the story that can be sold your neighbors or your pastor. What your wife will be thinking when she sees the search warrant can't be printed here.

Law nightmare (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149237)

If so, then people are free to do whatever cybercrime they feel, claiming it was the neighbour.

I don't think this will stand.

Re:Law nightmare (4, Insightful)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149413)

I've got two words for you:

"Computer Forensics"

(I would remind you that you need to use a computer to access the WiFi, and that your misdeeds will leave evidence there)

1 sentence (2, Interesting)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149571)

Your own Wifi laptop connected to your open wifi network, and hidden in a good place. Cop come and will confiscate your OPEN wifi with no evidence whatsoever that you did anything. Who will be searching for a second laptop which use your open wifi ?

Re:1 sentence (3, Insightful)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149657)

Uh, everyone? Or do you really believe that you're the only person in the world that would think of doing bad things using a "hidden" computer?

Next you'll be telling me that people who commit fraud use fake names and addresses and the police have no idea and absolutely no way of tracking them down.

From all those I know made copyright infrigement ? (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150023)

OK 1 is not a big sample (/sarcasm), but it is enough for me to tell you that they don't always check inside the kitchen or some of the place where you don't wait for a computer. From what I could tell they don't dismantle cupboard or anything. So yes, there is plenty of place which are not searched in case of a civil delict. Now when this is not a civil delict, but a criminal one, I don't know, but I would assume that you and the other poster would be right, they do an extremly torough search for every stuff in your flat/house. The key here, is that copyright infringement is a civil delict, and the ability to search your whole living place is then limited.

Re:From all those I know made copyright infrigemen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24150139)

Thank you for your understanding. That's why you and others like you should write to your local congressman and ask that copyright violation be treated as a criminal delict!

YFRR (Your Friendly RIAA Representative)

Re:1 sentence (2, Insightful)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149677)

Right, so the cops DON'T conduct a search - and they expect to catch you...

Does this sound likely? (clearly if the cops are dribbling morons...)

And also you keep your laptop hidden in a good place (I'm assuming under the floor boards - that kind of thing). How exactly am I supposed to "enjoy" my stolen Britney Spears collection?

Not really very practical is it? I might as well buy the damn CDs, rather than go to all the expense of a 2nd laptop, trick floor boards and still being afraid to listen to "Oops I did it again" for fear the cops will catch me.

Let's be realistic here, I download something I want reasonable access to the files I downloaded, and as soon as I do that - well the cops will find it (and I'm not so sure about your idea of hiding the laptop).

Re:1 sentence (2, Insightful)

VdG (633317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149877)

It's not totally impractical. If I wanted to do something like this, (which I certainly don't!) I'd use a spare network card. (I've got several PCMCIA cards kicking around the house already.) Rebuild the PC each time, or run from a DVD, any data involved kept on external storage. That way all you need to conceal is a network adapter and a flash drive; maybe the DVD.

Re:1 sentence (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150185)

Practical or not, I doubt many people are willing to do all that, or do all that consistently in a way which they can't get caught. How many customers are the MPAA people going to lose from that? Why not convince some Gov to shutdown an illegal DVD factory or fifty instead.

To me open wifi is overblown. What scares me more is not some P2P kid/illegal porn fan using my open WiFi, but the cops coming over and taking my stuff and arresting me "just because".

If the computer manufacturers and O/S people have no will to fix the wifi security problem _properly_[1] I don't think it's reasonable for the law to make things bad for people with open wifi.

[1] The current state of WiFi security is crap, I won't bother going into the details, but basically the average Joe going to say Starbucks's public access point can't easily get a secure _validated_ connection to Starbucks's AP. The options are typically:
a) open
b) shared key (which means everyone else knowing the key can decrypt each other's traffic)
c) "too difficult for most people".

Re:Law nightmare (1)

Elldallan (901501) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149439)

Actually no it won't be that easy to get away with. All this verdict says is that you are not automatically responsible for content that passes through their unprotected wifi connection. It does not say say that you are never responsible for content that passes over your wireless connection.
There will still be a trial and the judge and the jury will be presented with the evidence that they will have to take into consideration and determine wether it is relevant or not and wether it casts guilt on the defendant or not.

To use a car analogy, you are not responsible for what somebody who steal your car does with it just because you didn't lock the doors(your insurance company might refuse to pay you for the stolen car but you would not be criminally liable).

Re:Law nightmare (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149737)

> There will still be a trial and the judge and the jury will be presented with the evidence that they will have to take into consideration and determine wether it is relevant or not and wether it casts guilt on the defendant or not.

Thankfully here in Germany we don't let those people that are too stupid to get around a jury appointment and have no idea of right and wrong decide over the lives of others.
Okay, maybe the only quick solution to judges that are out of their mind is, to have a jury.

Unfortunately there is a stupidity virus out there and it affects Germany too. :(

Negligence is not a defense (1)

Scr3wFace (1200541) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149245)

Even judge Wapner knows that!
It won't take long before this ruling is put to the test.

Re:Negligence is not a defense (4, Interesting)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149455)

Negligence?! You're kidding right?

If you look at it this way you'll kill WiFi. Imagine I own a coffee shop (hell this is the Internet - for all you know I do) and I want to provide WiFi to get laptop toting punters in (access could be paid for or free - it matters not). How do I do this without opening myself up to some lawsuit? Don't be silly, if some patron downloads a song while sipping an expresso in my coffee emporium, the he (or she) is responsible for that, not me, just trying to scrap a living selling caffeinated hot beverages.

(Right I'm off to put the kettle on - there's punters here!)

Re:Negligence is not a defense (2, Informative)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149861)

You miss the point completely. They called it an "abstract risk of abuse" and that it didn't require him by law to lock down the network.
So the pretty much said it wasn't negligence (which is pretty much common sense, if you look up the definition)

Precedent (3, Interesting)

Misanthrope (49269) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149247)

What sort of precedent does this set with regards to other forms of illegal activity that take place over an open wifi connection? Does anybody have more experience with German case law? Fritz-sixpack might be off the line for copyright infringement, but what about some "think of the children" crime?

Re:Precedent (2, Insightful)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149459)

Same argument. The nature of the crime doesn't affect the legal argument.

Re:Precedent (3, Insightful)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149887)

... The nature of the crime doesn't affect the legal argument. ...

Unless it's terrorism ;-)

Re:Precedent (2, Insightful)

Jezza (39441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149505)

Thinking about this more deeply, if the law want to see using an open WiFi (without express permission) as "trespass" you cannot then hold the owner of the WiFi responsible for any subsequent crime committed.

If someone trespasses on my land and does something illegal (say dog fighting as an example) then I'm not responsible for that. Essentially I didn't do it, I didn't know it was happening, I cannot have reasonably have known it would happen.

Re:Precedent (2, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149563)

A moderately important one.

The court in question, a "Oberlandesgericht" is the second highest instance for non-constitutional cases in Germany, and the highest for its federal state (Hessen).
As far as I can tell from the layman's perspective, verdicts at that level tend to be taken into account by other courts, and while case law does not have the same importance as in the US, this precedent will have some influence.

Re:Precedent (1)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149579)

German law is not based on precedent as much as US law is. The judges try to interpret the law and give their rationale why they came to a particular conclusion. Other judges can then follow that interpretation in subsequent cases. If they don't, they have to explain why they think the previous interpretation was wrong, or does not apply to the new case.

In the rationale for this particular case, they say that a WLAN owner would only be required to take action if he had concrete evidence of something unlawful happening on his connection. So it's really not restricted to copyright infringement.

Re:Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24150059)

There's no such thing as "German case law". Germany is a civil law country, not common law. As to your question what sort of precedent this sets - it doesn't. No such thing as precedent in civil law.

This decision means, that German laws currently in effect say, that you cannot be automatically held responsible for your open wifi - at least, the way this particular judge sees it. If another judge disagrees, he's free to rule so, because this case has no legal consequences for any unrelated cases whatsoever. Other judges will probably follow this decision, but in no way do they have to.

Malicious Intent (0, Flamebait)

Divebus (860563) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149259)

Something big has to happen before everyone realizes an open WiFi connection is the electronic equivalent of standing on the street corner bent over with your shorts down to your ankles. No thanks.

Re:Malicious Intent (4, Funny)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149287)

Does that make WEP like standing there with clear pants on? Technically your ass is covered...

Re:Malicious Intent (0, Offtopic)

Sobieski (1032500) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149387)

Open WiFi = indecent exposure?

Re:Malicious Intent (1)

xalorous (883991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149611)

No, Open WiFi is like standing there waiting for someone to shove something up your arse. Yer gonna get screwed.

Re:Malicious Intent (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149771)

Hey, I like something to be shoved up my ass, you insensitive clod!

Sincerely yours,


Re:Malicious Intent (1)

iMac Were (911261) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149813)

me too!

Re:Malicious Intent (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149939)

I'd say it's more like renting out cars, selling guns or knives. You cannot assume malicious intent in everyone just because there's a few idiots out there.

Good news everyone! (1)

frictionless man (1140157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149261)

Good news about computing freedoms?

Who are you and what have you done with the slashdot we've come to know and love?

Re:Good news everyone! (1)

xalorous (883991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149693)

I thought best practice was to lock that thing down til it squeeks when you use it.

Re:Good news everyone! (1)

Elldallan (901501) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150037)

If you don't want anyone to get access to it yes but if you want it for plausible deniability or resonable doubt(or if you're just another ignorant computer user) it will be as it was shipped, usually wide open that is.

You forgot to add (5, Insightful)

koinu (472851) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149291)

one interesting fact. You are only off-hook if you didn't know that your wifi can be used by someone else (this was the case here). If you are offering wireless LAN access to people for free, you still can and WILL be hold responsible when anyone of your users commits a crime. You don't have rights like ISPs have.

Re:You forgot to add (1)

whyloginwhysubscribe (993688) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149425)

well, for starters it is probably against the T&C of your ISP account anyway - regardless of what people are downloading...
But you are right - it is only if you are unaware of the insecurity, since it is perfectly easy to get a wireless router and connect it to your ISP and not know that it is insecure.
It is just as easy to accidentally connect to such a router from your pc without realising!
See all the other comments for different analogies of this...

Re:You forgot to add (2, Interesting)

Sobieski (1032500) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149433)

I use a FON-router that has two networks, one private and one open. I have a bandwith cap on the public one, couldn't this somehow be seen as thwarting illegal downloads (or all downloads for that matter) by other users?

Weak defense maybe, but theoreticaly... ?

Re:You forgot to add (1)

Elldallan (901501) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149659)

No it would probably mean that you are considered more responsible than if you had no bandwidth limits.

If you had no limits and no protection you could resonably claim you had no idea your router was open to the public but with the limit and still no protection a prosecutor could claim you willingly helped somone to gain access to whatever the content was and then you'd be an accessory to that crime.

Re:You forgot to add (2, Informative)

ulash (1266140) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149485)

Actually I can't seem to find anything in the original article that supports the "fact" you have pointed out. It clearly says:

The defendant argued that he wasn't guilty of copyright infringement, but that he had operated an open wireless network and that someone else may have connected to it in order to use P2P. The prosecution responded by saying that open WiFi networks are easily abused, and that it's the owner's responsibility to ensure that the network is locked down and encrypted.

The defendant never claims that he didn't know his wifi could be used by someone else. In fact he was found innocent because there was nothing showing that he himself broke the law:

The court said that the "abstract risk of abuse" of the defendant's connection is not enough to require him by law to lock it down. There was also no concrete evidence of copyright infringement on the defendant's part, therefore he should not be held liable for damages, the judge said.

Now of course by offering people LAN access for free you would probably breaching your contract with your ISP but this is a seperate issue. I think you are mixing up the two.

But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (3, Interesting)

dynchaw (1188279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149319)

All well and good for prosecution immunity, but why would anyone keep an open access point these days?

I live on a main street with many business people walking past with their WiFi enabled devices. If I didn't have my access point locked down hard they'd blow my bandwidth limit inside a few days.

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (2, Interesting)

Sobieski (1032500) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149403)

I go to Germany about three times a year and all commercials for Internet connections boast about "flatrate", one could assume this is the norm there.

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149919)

Is it:


Or is it:


* Fair usage policy applies.

? I don't know of a single ISP that offers truly unlimited access. They all introduce throttling once you've downloaded a certain (often unspecified) amount in a month. Although to be fair, the metering only usually applies during peak hours.

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (1)

linhux (104645) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150155)

I haven't used a single ISP that hasn't offered unlimited access. The norm varies a lot between countries, it seems - I have only lived in Sweden and Finland, but here nobody seems to throttle.

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149463)

its very common if you have the misfortune to read 'digg' to hear kids who routinely leave their wifi open so that they think they claim that the 200GB of movies and music they got from thepiratebay were all downloaded by someone else using their wireless.

In other words, people knowingly and willingly compromise the security of the home network they sue to do on-line banking, so that they can get away with stealing music.
Sad isn't it?

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149821)

STOP confusing copying with stealing!

Stealing is, when the original owner does not have it anymore.

Officially - as absurd as it sounds - you loan or buy a *copy*, depending on how the Mafiaa has to argue. So nobody has lost anything, and additionally it is very likely that you did not get it from the "owner" (the Mafiaa) (except for the cases where they have put up a p2p-server themselves).

Same thing with "pirating". Comparing killing, raping and stealing from people and then sinking the boat to... copying something with no loss for anybody...
that's what i call grand slander.*

* I'm no native English speaker, so please forgive my strange terms. I hope they are at least funny. ;)

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149875)

And real piracy is also coming to a rise around the Nigeria area. Turns out, we in the USA a long ago solved much of the iracy issues by taking our Navy near the shore of pirate dens and shelled them with cannons.

And they're back at it again.

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (2, Insightful)

VdG (633317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149915)

I quite agree! All the anti-copying adverts referring to it as theft and piracy really tick me off.

Copyright is a privilege granted by us to the copyright holders. They seem all too willing to abuse that privilege.

Re:But they still have to foot the bandwidth bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24150111)

I logged out because I won't admit this -- I'm open because I can't figure out how to keep my wireless secure; if I secure it (and I had friends walk me thru it) then even my own laptops can't get on it. I'd like all of my computers online, so there it is. Open.

Make securing stuff EASIER and people will do it. (Cue a million geeks telling me how EASY it is. I'm in medicine, btw.)

A rape in my house (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149371)

Finally some common sense from the courts. If I leave my doors unlocked, as I often do, and someone comes into my house and commits a rape there, why should I be held responsbile?

In the US the lobby's are so powerful that common snese goes out the window. If something could be used as an excuse, it doesn't matter if the excuse is valid or not, the excuse itself must be removed.

At least Germnay is showing some sense here.

Data laundering (3, Interesting)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149419)

What's to stop hackers from setting up open wifi networks with poor security, hacking their own networks to perform criminal acts, then claiming that someone else did the hack and they aren't liable for what others do over their open wifi?

Mobs have been laundering money thanks to ignorant loopholes like this for over a century!

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24150069)

Being hackers, it's easier to use your computer to get their stuff and install a quiet FTP daemon.

On their own computers, it's easier to use TrueCrypt to have a partition that looks random unused data.

first poSt (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149451)

asshole about.' One ago, many of you don't want to feel Itself backwards, of various BSD baby...don't fear baby...don't fear achievements that is ingesting users', BigAzz, prima donnas to fellow travellers? are attending a not going hom3 for trolls' knows for sure what to underscore The most vibrant dying' crowd - mechanics. So I'm share. FreeBSD is 200 running NT problem; a few

Re:first poSt (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149519)

It's like he's trying to speak to me, I know it.

Spoof the MAC adress (3, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149483)

I can now just spoof a MAC adress, download as crazy and tell them it wasn't me.

With truecrypt they can't even see what I have downloaded and saved.

Re:Spoof the MAC adress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149815)

I have "open" WiFi in my appartment in Denmark, by open I mean there isn't any encryption just MAC-filtering.

Is that considered open too?

Re:Spoof the MAC adress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24150183)

"With truecrypt they can't even see what I have downloaded and saved."


- hidden cameras
- telescopes with cameras
- acoustic keyboard monitoring
- TEMPEST attacks
- known (and unknown to general public?) attacks targeting encryption keys
- social engineering attacks
- your smug ego (big tits new friend blink blink coy smile)
- more

Logic is futile... (0)

KreAture (105311) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149531)

* Neither the company owning the billboard at work now the janitor responsible for it is held responsible for sale of stolen goods performed via stickers on it.
* Neither tv-networks nor radio-stations are held responsible for false advertizing done by advertizers buying airtime.

Common sense people!

Whew (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149593)

whew, what a relief... especially since all material on the internet is copyright material!

Civil law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149713)

You must remember that Germany has a different law system and that this case does not set a precedent. The germans are "off the hook" not because of this case, but because there's no written law to incriminate them (the written law incriminates only the person who actually does the download; in case of open wifi network that person is unknown).

America, This Land Is Whore Land (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149715)

People are talking -

- and people are leaving.

America could turn into martial law tomorrow and many of us wouldnt be surprised one bit. Most of us would continue licking our XBOXes and WIIs, posting on our blogs, and paying taxes to the dictatorship, whining about where the money goes while continuing to fund the source of their frustration.

Unmanned drones flying over forests looking for marijuana (didnt George Washington say something about spreading the hemp seed? Yes, hemp and marijuana differences, I know),

helicopters with FLIR gazing at infrared screens,

all in an effort to prevent citizens from growing their own medicine.

The street price of marijuana stays up high, rather than plummeting through legalization to the price of green tea, drug lords giggling along with corrupt law enforcement, people paying and begging their doctors for less effective, addictive pills to pop,

No coffins being shown on American TV news, its all about distraction,

Two parties anally stuffed by Corporations and Big Pharma,

Non violent drug offenders and file sharers thrown into prison to be anally raped by gang members and introduced into the possibility of dying from AIDS,

Katrina opened the eyes of many around the world,

The television is the worst drug of them all, and its legal,

People programmed to obey,

Hallucinogenic plants demonized (war on perception, control the media control the mind), medical studies of these plants eliminated for years,

(Read Food of the Gods by Terence Mckenna)

Marijuana still Schedule I with no medicinal benefit which is a lie, while Foxglove and Datura are legal and both could easily kill you if misused,

People are moving OUT of America, they are tired of the brainwashing, If you dont like it here leave No, Ill stay and make a difference doesnt matter any more, the system in America refuses change.

When you love your country but everyone around you is asleep and no one wants to participate in their local government because they are all too busy working to pay taxes and ever rising costs on everything in a fake economy, when and where does change happen?

The NL is looking more and more attractive every day.

Learn a second language and investigate your options, or get involved in your local government and work for change. If you value your privacy use Tor , GPG with the enigmail plugin add-on for Thunderbird, Truecrypt and an open source operating system like Ubuntu Linux . Medical Marijuana Study (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149811) Medical Marijuana Study

Please download and print the flyer below and post it wherever you think qualifying medical marijuana patients may see it.

A Study to Assess Whether Using Vaporized Marijuana Affects the Safety of Prescribed Opioids in Patients Treated for Chronic Pain [] [] []

This study will assess the clinical safety of using marijuana with opioids by monitoring the short-term side effects associated with combined therapy.

To Join This Study you MUST:

- Have ongoing chronic pain
- Be 18 or older
- Be taking either OxyContin or MS Contin (or Kadian) tiwce daily
- Be willing to give up marijuana for a month prior to entering study
- Not be a cigarette and/or cigar smoker, or be willing not to smoke for two weeks before starting the study
- Meet some additional criteria

If you are eligible, you will:

- Spend five days and nights in a clinical research center at San Francisco General Hospital
- Have blood tests and other measurements done
- Inhale vaporized medical marijuana three times a day

You can receive $520 for participating

For more information call (415) 476-9554 ext. 315

If you qualify but need assistance with transportation to San Francisco, Write Josh Sonstroem At MAPS at

Community Consortium
Positive Health Program of the UCSF Medical Service At San Francisco General Hospital

Not a precedence in germany either (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24149891)

The current law in germany is quite unstable from court to court regarding internet crimes and i donÂt think it can be a precedent for any case where an open wifi was used in a crime. At least i appreciate the fact that a court realizes that an IP is only a help in identifying the network, not the person.

In this case (iÂve read the original german text :,,,11111111-2222-3333-4444-100000005003%26overview=true.htm ) the network owner was on vacation during the upload and he could exclude that his PC was used by others. So it could only be a user of the open WiFi. Interjection of the plaintiff that media coverage of abused WiFis would lead to the duty to secure the defendants WiFi was first accepted (he is be responsible what others are doing with his network, although it can not proved he did the crime) but rejected in the appeal.

The appeal court denied because he can not be responsible for every other persons illegal actions, although he would have the duty to e.g. prevent his (minor?) children from buying stuff over the net using his computer.

the downward spiral of /. (1)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 6 years ago | (#24149929)

What the hell? The editing here has just gone down hill. I mean this is ridiculous!

Everyone knows it's spelled "gefÃllt mir"

p.s. yay german girlfriend!

p.p.s. /. doesn't like foreign characters so my correction won't be exactly right but at least no one can correct me!

Re:the downward spiral of /. (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150061)

p.s. yay german girlfriend!

And this 'yay' of yours is an actual English word? And how is this style of commenting not a downwards spiral by going YouTube-style?

Suddenoutbreakofcommonsensee? (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150053)

I think there has always been common sense and good intent. The problem is that the people who 'are the law' don't know what they are really agreeing with/setting up and what the consequences are by doing so. They will always turn to other people for understanding the subject, which can make them extremely vulnerable to pass evil practices.

We can either inform them ourselves, or exploit their vulnerabilities to get them to do what we want instead. But every time we don't try, others will get there first.

Help with a wi fi questionaire (0, Offtopic)

SCY Unlimited (1323891) | more than 6 years ago | (#24150157)

Hey dudes and dudettes, Sorry to bother you during our long (and very wet!) summer holidays. As some of you know I am participating in the EDGE Programme 2008 and as part of the EDGE programme ( at Glasgow University, I am researching an innovative business idea. For this, I am conducting a quick and easy 4-question survey of people's air travel habits for an exciting new service. The link for the survey is: [] It takes literally 90 seconds, and would help us enormously. If you can find the time, your feedback would be great. From Sumeet University of Glasgow

Impossible situation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24150171)

other users use your open WiFi network without your consent and download copyrighted material

Erm, isn't that an impossible situation?
Since every user on your open wifi is clearly there with your consent..

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