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Parents Not Liable For Their Son's Illegal Music Sharing, Says German Court

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the but-god-help-them-if-he-illegally-shares-bratwurst dept.

The Courts 207

An anonymous reader sends this quote from an IDG News report: "A German couple are not liable for the filesharing activities of their 13-year old son because they told him unauthorized downloading and sharing of copyrighted material was illegal, and they were not aware the boy violated this prohibition, the German Federal Court of Justice ruled on Thursday. ... The ruling of the Federal Court of Justice reversed a ruling of the higher regional court of Cologne, which found the parents were liable for the illegal filesharing because they failed to fulfill their parental supervision. That court said the parents could have installed a firewall on their son's computer as well as a security program that would have made it possible to only allow the child to install software with the consent of his parents. Besides that, the parents could have checked their son's PC once a month, and then the parents would have spotted the Bearshare icon on the computers' desktop, according to the Cologne court. 'The Federal Court overturned the decision of the Appeal Court and dismissed it,' the court said."

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207 comments

That's not my computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000673)

So does this mean a 13 year old will bet sent to jail?
Sounds like a neo-Hackers movie in the works...

Re:That's not my computer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000871)

Germany isn't the US.

Re:That's not my computer... (5, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001243)

So does this mean a 13 year old will bet sent to jail?

No, this is the civilized world, where they don't usually send children to prison.
Or anyone to prison for what's clearly not crimes where the society needs to be protected from the individual.

Prisoners, USA: 0.73% of the population
Prisoners, Germany: 0.083% of the population (and that's high by world standards).
Children serving life without parole, USA: ~2500
Children serving life without parole, rest of the world combined: 0

Re:That's not my computer... (1, Insightful)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001639)

And of those chirlden serving life without parole, how many are doing it because of file sharing rather than extremely violent crimes such multiple homicide? How many of these "children" are actually 16 17 even 17.9 years old, childen only in the letter of the law, not in physiological or mental development?

Your back handed attempt at insulting the US is foolish.

Re:That's not my computer... (5, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001701)

Backhanded attempt?

2500 to 0 speaks for itself. It requires no explanation.

Re:That's not my computer... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42002089)

Backhanded attempt?

2500 to 0 speaks for itself. It requires no explanation.

So you'd rather have 2500 psychopathic children free to roam the streets of your town, and potentially grow up to commit more horrible crimes than they have already been convicted of doing?

At the risk of being modded into oblivion I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest you may be a moslem shill. I say this because of the statistically young age of suicide bombers and the high probability they suffer from a severe pathology.

Re:That's not my computer... (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year and a half ago | (#42002065)

In some countries, 16 is a legal adult.

In other countries, 16 is effectively an adult.

So Europeans whining about the American incarceration of "children" is a little disengenuous. Kind of reminds one of how American fundies like to trivialize young adults.

Re:That's not my computer... (5, Insightful)

Sesostris III (730910) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001779)

Children serving life without parole, rest of the world combined: 0

Not quite true. There are also child prisoners in North Korea who are unlikely to be released.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_22 [wikipedia.org] :

Based on the guilt by association principle (Korean: [some Korean text that Slashdot won't print here], yeonjwaje) they are often imprisoned together with the whole family including children and the elderly.[12] All prisoners are detained until they die and prisoners are never released.[18]

So no, not just the USA.

Of course, if you meant the rest of the civilized world, then you'd probably be correct.

Re:That's not my computer... (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001919)

Can you break down the ages of the ~2500? When I see 'Children', I guess I'm thinking 18 and under, but in Germany (as noted below), children are 11 and under. Are there ~2500 kids under the age of 12 in prison serving life without parole in the US?

[John]

Re:That's not my computer... (2)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42002075)

People who were betwen 13 and 17 when the alleged crimes were committed. I believe there are 40 who were age 13.

Compared to the zero figure for the rest of the world combined, any figure 1 or higher is way too high.

Re:That's not my computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001613)

In Germany, children ( = 12, 18 ) below the age of 14 are not liable for their actions. Their parents are, under some circumstances.

Re:That's not my computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001637)

Fix: In Germany, children ( < 12 ) and adolescents ( >= 12, < 18 ) below the age of 14 are not liable for their actions. Their parents are, under some circumstances.

Now for the parents the problem is (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000701)

how to justify the 13 year old's apparent love of music from the 60s and 70s...

Re:Now for the parents the problem is (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000713)

Well, they educated them to have a good taste.

Re:Now for the parents the problem is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000783)

for acid..

Re:Now for the parents the problem is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001029)

(Score:10, Pure Comedy Gold)

*wipes tear from eye*

Re:Now for the parents the problem is (2)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001055)

While the parents may have failed to teach a proper respect for authority they did apparently pass on superior musical taste. All in all I would call it a win.

Come on! (0)

aglider (2435074) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000705)

Those parents who are not aware of what the sons are doing, are doubly liable. This is one of the parents duties: watching over the sons!

Re:Come on! (3, Insightful)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000737)

And the child duty is to get around all limitations placed on them by the parents. Or did you do as you were told and have no imagination to do other wise when you were a child (you still may be - I don't know)?

Re:Come on! (3)

Urthas (2349644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001541)

It's pretty disturbing that you got modded up to "Insightful." Disobeying one's parents from time to time is inevitable, but "getting around all limitations" is not a filial "duty." What rubbish.

Re:Come on! (2)

dstyle5 (702493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42002037)

So your parents know of everything you did when you were young? Methinks not, guv.

Re:Come on! (5, Insightful)

Krneki (1192201) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000747)

He was just downloading stuff, it's not like he was smoking cigarettes or drinking.

Jesus.

Piracy for personal use = total worth ignoring

Re:Come on! (3, Insightful)

rvw (755107) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000885)

He was just downloading stuff, it's not like he was smoking cigarettes or drinking.

Jesus.

Piracy for personal use = total worth ignoring

I totally agree. However, he was not just downloading, he was "sharing", uploading as well. So he stole a pack of gum, and gave a few away. That's the size of this case. Give him a good spanking, and let it go.

These laws are stupid. How in hell are parents able to tell what a kid is doing on his/her computer? How many parents are able to tell the difference between two icons that don't look like Word or IE? After this ruling, all kids know to delete these icons from their desktop. Or they learn how to change the icon into something else. There is probably an app for that.

Re:Come on! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000969)

No. He copied a pack of gum and gave further copies away. Nobody lost any gum.

Re:Come on! (1)

mitzampt (2002856) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001387)

But many lost the need to taste it. This is not a virtual loss, it's actually a lost potential probable income. Think of the taxes that would have gone to the Government from that income. So many statistical orphans skipping lunches, being denied the dream of making hard-earned money from music. It's murder, i tell you!

Re:Come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001753)

Except the media corps claim to make such horrific losses they don't pay taxes?

No net loss...

Re:Come on! (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000983)

Yes, Right Click on the Icon | Properties | Change Icon ... | Browse ... | Look for MS Word or something and use its icon.

Re:Come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001069)

Next, School sues parents for bad grades..

Re:Come on! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000755)

Parents should take alternate shifts so there's always one awake watching their child at any moment of the day or the night. Having more than one child should be forbidden because then watching them 24 hours a day would be impossible with only 2 parents.

Re:Come on! (5, Funny)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000977)

You need at least 3 persons for an 8 hour shift. Also you will have to plan for sickness, weekends and vacation time. I'd say you need 6 people to watch a kid around the clock.

And since we are talking about teenagers those propably should be armed with more than just harsh language.


So for proper parenting you will need to hire 6 Blackwater mercs just to make sure.

Also: what does a Bearshare logo look like? Hadn't heard of that before. I would have understood Beavershare. He is an adolescent after all...

Re:Come on! (3, Funny)

MMC Monster (602931) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001271)

Oh, come on. That's not their only option. I count a few other options:
1 - No access to any computational device, ever.
2 - The parents could have become IT specialists.
3 - The parents could have paid a firm to monitor their child 24/7.

Re:Come on! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001393)

also a firewall does not block apps that you install and want to use.

and security program The parents can think that microsoft security essentials is one that does not block file shearing apps.

Re:Come on! (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001571)

Oh, come on. That's not their only option. I count a few other options:
1 - No access to any computational device, ever.
2 - The parents could have become IT specialists.
3 - The parents could have paid a firm to monitor their child 24/7.

4 - don't have children
5 - profit!

Re:Come on! (5, Interesting)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000779)

Exactly! That's why I keep my son locked in a cage, except when he has to go potty. God forbid he ever leaves my sight, as he might buy nuclear arms behind my back... or worse... download some old music illegally!

Re:Come on! (4, Funny)

Malenx (1453851) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001947)

You know, I was able to bypass this problem by making my son's cage floor a wire mesh. Now the droppings fall right through. As an added bonus, when I need to hose the floor down I can also spray the boy for his shower. Two birds with one stone.

Re:Come on! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000817)

sorry but that is exactly what the highest court in Germany just decided is NOT the case. You completely got it back to front.

It may be YOUR opinion that the situation is different, but the high court decision in Germany is that the LAW doesn't require this. End of story.

Re:Come on! (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000877)

You watch over your 13 year old every minute of every day? 13 is more than old enough to have a private life and private activities, in fact I would argue that trying to deny them that would have a much worse effect on society than downloading music does. How long does it take to install some peer to peer software and hide it? 20 minutes? Maybe 5 minutes to queue up each song and move it to the device of your choice. Yeah, letting your teenager have 30 minutes on a PC without your supervision should be a criminal offense. Not digging through every file on the family PC should be a criminal offense. Not spying on your children should be a criminal offense. That all makes perfect sense.

Re:Come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001373)

13 is old enough to reason right and wrong if taught properly, whether he was taught properly is a different matter altogether. Kind of tired of this labeling kids like is beacause *gasp* how could anyone that young be able to reason right or wrong?!?! That would be a horror if they had to use there common sense/brain/reasoning!

Re:Come on! (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000899)

Any parent who is truly aware of everything their child is doing should be reported to child services.

By giving kids no autonomy to learn the world for themselves you're not only potentially stunting their mental growth but potentially also breeding one hell of a rebellion when a child gets to that age.

Re:Come on! (1)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001593)

Those parents who are not aware of what the sons are doing, are doubly liable.
This is one of the parents duties: watching over the sons!

Not really... these are parents who either do not know the first thing about computers, know that they know nothing about computers, and know that their son knows far more than they do, or who believe that his right to privacy in his bedroom is more important than the need to get him used to living in a surveillance state.
(As a hint, privacy in Germany is given a much higher priority than it is in some other parts of Europe, or the US).

Re:Come on! (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001645)

Oh please. If this was 25 years ago and involved a kid sharing music via cassette tapes, no one would have batted an eyelash. The only stupid thing is that it gets take to court now because 1 kid among literally millions gets caught and has to be made the scapegoat for the rest of society. Total and utter bullshit.

GEMA should go fuck itself.

Re:Come on! (1)

Malenx (1453851) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001915)

So if your son shoots someone, you should go to jail.

Good to know.

still safe to have kids? (3, Funny)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000717)

Bad enough that your teenager might wreck your classic sports car, get busted for trying to buy alcohol or cigarettes, become a sex offender for sexting, cause a pregnancy, or thousands of other delinquent acts. At least if they commit piracy, you're personally off the hook now. Too bad your family isn't. You could disown the kid, I suppose.

Re:still safe to have kids? (4, Funny)

Cederic (9623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000769)

Bad enough that your teenager might wreck your classic sports car

However, if his friend does it you get a truly great movie.

Regarding the court decision, it sounds at the headline level to be very sensible. Parental responsibility has to have boundaries, and the parents seem to have taken reasonable steps.

This should never have reached court in the first place. Revise copyright laws, etc.

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42002039)

> Parental responsibility has to have boundaries, and the parents seem to have taken reasonable steps.

Not having actually read TFA, I'm not so sure. Telling someone to do something is good, but is useless if there are no checks to verify that what you say has been followed. So I still think it's negligent - they apparently neglected to follow up on their initial bit of good parenting.

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000773)

You could disown the kid, I suppose

If the kid gets fined one kajillion dollars for each song he downloaded, as the RIAA recommends, you'd better...

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000785)

The original decision was foolish on so many levels. Nonetheless we need to find a better answer to piracy than saying the concept of intellectual property rights is wrong, that anybody can take someone else's (intellectual) property at whim and distribute it at whim. The court was obviously trying to make an example of the kid and his parents (itself an injustice). 30 years ago kids used to tape songs off the radio and share their mixes without concern of the law. We need to crack down on piracy w/o being stupid about it.

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001019)

Of course there are better way to fight piracy. Germany has a frigate patrolling the Horn of Africa. Captured a couple of pirates, too. Sentenced them to a couple of years in prison. Most of it already served. You can't let those continue marauding the coasts of all seven seas. No, siree.

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001235)

I think that eventually all this will disappear. It's just a temporary problem while the music owners get their act together. There's already a couple services out there that let you listen to unlimited music. With some you can even save the music to your phone so you don't have to be connected to the internet to listen. With RDIO, for $10 a month I can get access a very large selection of music. Add in Netflix and Hulu Plus, and for $30 a month you have access to all the movies, TV, and music you want. All we need is for these services to increase the size of their selection and most people probably won't bother with pirating. I know I don't pirate that much since I actually have valid ways of getting stuff without spending obscene amounts of money like $20 for a CD with 8 songs on it.

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001557)

The problem is multi-faceted. As you pointed out spending $20 for a CD is crazy. The business model has changed dramatically as the cost of distribution is approaching zero. Unfortunately big media (music, movie and publishing companies) are making mistakes left and right. We need to prevent mass scale piracy and big media could help facilitate that by focusing on intellectual property and stop trying to corner the market through physical distribution means.

Re:still safe to have kids? (1)

cpghost (719344) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001515)

We need to crack down on piracy w/o being stupid about it.

No, we don't. There's no reason to criminalize an activity that is practiced by 90%+ of the population. Rules that run against human nature will only stay on paper and open the door for abuse. They won't change peoples' ways. The only thing we need to crack down on is commercial piracy and rogue publishers that take works, modify then and release them in such a way that it harms authors' reputation.

Re:still safe to have kids? (2)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001657)

I write articles. I have friends that are musicians. Should we work at McDonalds and produce our work for free so that you can get free sh*t? Painters, writers, musicians, game developers, etc... create something. They create it, for among other reasons, to get money to live - so they can by stuff from others. Let me see if I understand you. I create something. You like it. You take it without paying me for my work and then feed me the line that since everybody does it I should do nothing about it. I don't think so.

Re:still safe to have kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001711)

You should give me a reason to pay for it. Guilt tripping me isn't going to work.

Re:still safe to have kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001635)

We need to crack down on piracy

[Citation needed]

Nobody cares for piracy (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000721)

But what if a kid steals, gets into a fight or robs people? Who will be liable?

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000811)

Schools and teachers. Usually parents defer their parenting responsibilities to them nowadays...

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000831)

But what if a kid steals, gets into a fight or robs people? Who will be liable?

Well said! Or, to bring your analogy into sharper focus with the reality of the situation, what if he snuck into a movie theater, but maybe didn't watch anything and never sat down. Probably the we should sue the parents for millions.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (3, Informative)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000859)

I don't see why it wouldn't be exactly the same. If the kid robs anything and is caught with whatever he robbed he is forced to give it back and that is about it. If he gets into a fight, he gets into a fight. This happens all the time with a lot of kids if you need a reality check.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000957)

I know that it happens with a lot of kids because I happened to live in a ghetto area for a few years. When the police got tough on them, parents started training their kids to steal, mug and break in because they couldn't be held liable. If you allow a crime to go unpunished that will be abused.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001191)

But that happens only in countries that has ghettos or slums.
Germany has neither.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

itsdapead (734413) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001223)

If you allow a crime to go unpunished that will be abused.

OK, so lets arrest everybody who's ever made a mix tape/CD or ripped a CD to their iPod (may be OK in the US under 'fair use' law, but it is definitely copyright violation here in the UK*, possibly also in Germany where this story comes from). At a ball park estimate that's about 100% of the population (maybe 99%, but the 1% will probably have sung 'Happy Birthday' in a public place so it doesn't make much difference).

On second thoughts, no, let's not risk the total discredit and collapse of the justice system.

(* Seriously - although even the recording industry in the UK isn't sufficiently batshit insane to try and enforce it, if you build a CD ripper you'd keep quiet about it [asa.org.uk] in your advertising).

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001293)

Different from this case, since the court established that the parents told their son to NOT do the stuff.

Whereas if the court decided that the parents somehow influenced the kid to do the stuff whether directly or indirectly the judgement could be very different.

If you're not one of the very powerful don't expect to get away on a weasel technicality if the judge doesn't think you deserve to. "I didn't tell my son to do it, I wrote a ROT13 message and he happened to stumble upon it, decrypt it and do the evil deeds" isn't going to fool the judge.

Of course what will happen is teenagers will be spending more of their time sharing music, and as a result hopefully less time stealing and breaking stuff. Which is fine by me. And if I were in the music industry, I'd want the kids to be sharing my stuff not other stuff. I'll get the money from them later when they actually have money.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

cpghost (719344) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001597)

If the kid robs anything and is caught with whatever he robbed he is forced to give it back and that is about it.

If the kid is caught with the only one copy of an MP3 that doesn't exist elsewhere in the world, I guess he will have stolen it and will eventually be forced to give it back.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (2)

itsdapead (734413) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001001)

But what if a kid steals, gets into a fight or robs people? Who will be liable?

What's that got to do with this? Those are serious crimes that result in real people being injured or deprived of their hard-earned property. The only "damage" in the case of copyright violation is the slim, hypothetical possibility that, if the kid hadn't been able to get the material, he'd have paid for them and the artists would have got a thousandth of a cent in royalties.

Wake me up if the kid was running a large-scale illegal download site shipping ripped-off content to sufficient thousands of people to make a difference. Even then, the sensible thing for the content owners to do would be to shake him down for some free advertising space and punt gig tickets, t-shirts, action figures and premium-rate SMS services to his customer base.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001179)

Depends on the situation.
If you can make clear the kid 'knew what it did was bad/evil/a crime' _but_ at the moment where it happened you had no controll over it, then you insurance will pay (not the same as being liable).
If the kid causes monetary damage and you are not insurrd, you are liable.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001299)

Child insurance? You Germans think of everything.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001583)

If you can make clear the kid 'knew what it did was bad/evil/a crime' _but_ at the moment where it happened you had no controll over it, then you insurance will pay (not the same as being liable). If the kid causes monetary damage and you are not insurrd, you are liable.

Careful. In Germany, where this happened, a child under 7 years is not responsible for anything. If damage happened because you as the parent were negligent, you are liable. If the damage happened without you being negligent, nobody is liable. Like holding your child by the hand, it tears itself lose, runs into the street, causes a pileup. You were not negligent, nobodies fault. If you had no control because these things just happen, not your fault. If you had no control because you were negligent, your fault.

Re:Nobody cares for piracy (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001435)

But what if a kid steals, gets into a fight or robs people? Who will be liable?

Why the presumption that someone has to be liable?
If a bear cub comes crashing through the woods and breaks into a tent, it's bad. But we don't put the bear or its parents on trial, nor sentence them to pay back the owner.

I buy insurance to cover the cases where bad things happen and no one is liable. It doesn't cover everything, but if it happens, it helps.

That said, parents are of course responsible for investing the time and resources in rearing their children as well as they can. If they don't, they're guilty of neglecting their children's upbringing -- a rather serious crime in itself, but unless they teach their children to break the law, they're not guilty of the crimes their children commit.

this is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000741)

If something leads to civil or criminal liability then either the child is responsible or the parent/guardian bears some responsibility.

Just because you don't want something to lead to civil/criminal liability it doesn't mean that it's a victory to create edge cases where someone escapes the law.

The solution must always be to remove that liability via the legislative process.

Otherwise it's just "most expensive lawyer wins".

In that specific jurisdiction -German readers help (0)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000753)

If the 13-year-old commits murder, are the parents liable? Are the parents liable for any of the kid's law-breaking actions?

How's downloading illegal music any different?

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000775)

You don't see the difference between killing someone and downloading music illegally over the internet?

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000837)

"Age of criminal responsibility"

Differentiating between crimes isn't done in this fine scale (i.e. at 10 you can murder, but at 15 you can't, etc.) - you're either criminally responsible for your actions or not. The offence only determines the severity of the crime, not your capacity to know better.

Most countries have this at an age where the child should "know better", i.e. usually around 10 years old. Below that age, you can't be "criminally responsible" for the acts you've committed, because it's unlikely you understood what you were doing or what the impact would be (i.e. a toddler pushing another toddler off a high-rise block of flats while playing).

What you're confusing is the SEVERITY of the crime, and the capacity to know whether what you're doing is wrong or not. The severity of the crime determines the possible "punishment", the capacity to know what you were doing determines whose fault that was (i.e. parent for leaving you alone, you for not knowing better, etc.)

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

gr3yh47 (2023310) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000849)

OP is trying to understand the German liability laws for parents, not make a moral comparison between the two

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001409)

OP is trying to understand the German liability laws for parents, not make a moral comparison between the two

A parent is liable if they neglect to supervise their children properly. Courts will take a common sense approach to this. A 13 year old is capable of making their own decisions, and capable of doing things on their own. You are not neglecting to supervise them if you tell a 13 year old what to do and he secretly does it.

Many people in Germany have liability insurance. So if your five year old scratches your neighbour's car, the liability insurance will ask if you neglected to supervise your child properly. The correct answer is YES. Because it is then your fault, you are liable, and the liability insurance pays the damage. If you say NO, then it was nobody's fault, a five year old is not responsible for what they are doing, and it's just tough luck for the neighbour.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001489)

Then the correct answer is NO.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000855)

Causation is clear. How does liability not follow? Why is it murky for downloading and black and white for every other law?

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001407)

Causation is clear. How does liability not follow? Why is it murky for downloading and black and white for every other law?

Umm, the parents presumably supplied the kid with the equipment used to do the illegal downloading.

Would the parents incur any liability under German law if they left an unsecured gun around the house and the kid used it to kill someone? What if the gun were properly secured?

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001683)

Would the parents incur any liability under German law if they left an unsecured gun around the house and the kid used it to kill someone?

IANAGNAL, but the rational thing would be to have leaving an unsecured gun be the same crime whether someone got to it and used it or not. The severity of a crime should not be affected by happenstance.

Which is why I'm also not happy with how we distinguish between murder and attempted murder. The criminal act is the same - if two people shoot at two victims with the intent to kill, it makes no sense to me that if one of them survives, the sentencing should be different. The crime stopped when the trigger was pulled, and what happened afterwards is not part of the crime. The effect can not change the cause, unless you apply religion instead of reason.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000893)

Sure, after all downloading music in the internet is a considerably graver crime and should be punished at all costs, even by transferring the responsibility to the parents, whilst the comparatively mild crime of murder obviously should not.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000923)

If the 13-year-old commits murder, are the parents liable? Are the parents liable for any of the kid's law-breaking actions?

How's downloading illegal music any different?

That would depend on whether or not they've neglected their parental duty of supervision.

In this case the court found that it is sufficient to teach the kid the rules that apply when using the internet because the parents had no indication that their son would not comply.
Of course after this incident they do have to watch and/or restrict his internet access by additional means.

The same applies to any action of your kids - if the parents have fulfilled their parental supervision within a reasonable extent they're off the hook. "Reasonable" obviously depends on the the circumstances and ultimately the court's ruling, but spying on your kid every second of the day is surely deemed "not reasonable".

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000927)

Children are not adults, this means they require parental guidance, can't make certain decisions for themselves etc...
So yes, we actually do hold parents responsible for some of the things their kids do. (I'm not from Germany)

Example: your kid goes to his friends house and breaks a window, you would probably pay for it not?
Your kid vandalizes some of the schools property, again you'll probably pay for it and are deemed to punish your kid appropriately
your kid does illegal things on the internet; suddenly the parents are no way at all liable.

Now, I actually don't consider downloading music a criminal offense or even illegal. I don't know the case for Germany.
What I do find odd is the first courts decision:

That court said the parents could have installed a firewall on their son's computer as well as a security program that would have made it possible to only allow the child to install software with the consent of his parents.

Let's face it, neither the judge nor the parents can probably explain what a firewall is, let alone install one and configuring it to stop 'piracy',
And if programs need installing, it's probably the kid that does it.

Parental duties is one thing, policing your kids is another. We don't want to live in an Orwellian police state, so we definitely aren't going to push that on our kids.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (3)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001023)

Probably not but the kid is. Big difference between a felony and a civil issue anyways. Even then the kid should be treated a lot differently than an adult in respect to the felony.

I'm a parent I believe in parental responsibilities at the same time I'm not the sue everybody sort. My son stole something once he was 2 and a half at the time, I noticed a couple minutes later brought him back into the store had him give it back and apologize. I do not think you need to get into litigation, police etc, this is part of growing up and being a parent. I think the thing people tend to forget is the parents need to be the ultimate authority as far as the child is concerned to do otherwise undermines there ability to parent. By the RIAA/MPAA definition reading a magazine in the store constitutes theft and you should pay 1000 times the real value to account for the people they did not catch and and the store should enforce this for them, check out lines would never be the same.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001093)

American in Germany here.

Well the whole case is a civil case. It simply says that the Parents don't have to pay for any civil damages that may arise due to the illegal activies of the child. The child alone is responsible. Furthermore, since the child is not old enough to be held legally responsible the music industry basically just have to sit on their civils claims. So no one pays, but the child did do something illegal. Since this is only a civil case, there are no further actions that can be taken.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001139)

You do know the difference between civil and criminal law right?

Murder is a criminal offense and would be tried in a criminal court where the rules of punishment range from fines, probation, jail time and even death in some locations. Criminal cases are brought by the state and prosecuted by the state for violating criminal laws.

Downloading music in violation of copyright is a civil matter. The state really doesn't care that much if you do it and are not likely going to be interested in tracking you down and hauling you to court for it. The state does not actively enforce copyrights or look for people who violate the copyrights of others. However, the copyright owner does have the right to sue for infringement and collect damages in civil courts. The RIAA is just a group of copyright holders who have banded together to find people who infringe on copyrights and take them to civil court and recover damages.

The question being asked here is what is the civil responsibility of parents when their children are taken to civil court and loose. It seems that in Germany, the collection of civil judgments against minors just got a lot more difficult. Given that most 13 year old kids don't usually own that much or even have a job, I suspect this will pretty much squash any attempts to sue kids for sharing music in Germany at least.

the criminal standard of proof are to high for mos (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001475)

the criminal standard of proof are to high for most of the file sharing cases.

Ever more so if they just have a IP and did not even download the file from his system.

IP address have a lot of ISP errors that can flag some one who did not even share a file at or even flag a printer as a file shearing system.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001501)

The question being asked here is what is the civil responsibility of parents when their children are taken to civil court and loose. It seems that in Germany, the collection of civil judgments against minors just got a lot more difficult. Given that most 13 year old kids don't usually own that much or even have a job, I suspect this will pretty much squash any attempts to sue kids for sharing music in Germany at least.

No, collecting money for causing criminal damage for example is no problem. They will wait until you make enough money. The problem with a 13 year old will be that you have problems holding him responsible in the first place, which is why they tried to go after the parents. And another problem will be to get a huge monetary amount for copying music in Germany, against anyone. I would be quite sure that if a fourteen year old smashes up your car intentionally, he'll pay for it. Eventually.

So the problem is not collecting, the problem is convicting.

Re:In that specific jurisdiction -German readers h (3, Interesting)

cpghost (719344) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001389)

How's downloading illegal music any different?

Well, downloading illegal music is a criminal offense. Illegally downloading (legal) music is a civil offense. Illegal music in Germany would e.g. be Nazi songs etc...

Help ME: In which country do you jail the parents (1)

mha (1305) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001729)

If the 13-year-old commits murder, are the parents liable? Are the parents liable for any of the kid's law-breaking actions?

How's downloading illegal music any different?

...when their child commits murder? There are plenty of cases in the US and the UK available to research. Unless you hand your kid the gun, or don't leave YOUR gun lying around (applies to the US mostly), only the child ends up in (a special, depending on age) court. Then of course, in the US there are plenty examples where a 12 year old is tried as an adult, but that still leaves out the parents.

As for your second question, of course! If they are directly responsible. You cannot send your child to commit a crime thinking YOU won't be punished.

Your 3rd question, you DO know that even in the US civil and criminal law are two very different things?

So, to sum it up, are you just trolling because you immediately dislike something you hear, and are too lazy to invoke some more modern parts of your brain instead of just the knee-jerk reaction part?

Bearshare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000771)

With a name like "Bearshare" what parent wouldn't immediately recognize the the threat. It's not like cartoon bears and sharing are appropriate subject matters for young children.

Re:Bearshare (1)

zarthrag (650912) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000839)

Bears that share [goo.gl] are probably the MOST dangerous thing on the internet!

How to control? (2)

Zemran (3101) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000901)

The 13 yr old probably knows more about how to circumvent the measures suggested by the earlier court than the parents know about installing them. It was a stupid ruling and should have been struck down. The only reason for it is that those that are prosecuting know that the parents have money and the boy does not.

Re:How to control? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001275)

Forget parents. Not even highly trained geeks and nerds can stop it with expensively licenced software.

Here at work MP3s are banned. Try moving one from a USB memory stick and the nanny software throws a wobbly. Get past that and Windows Media Player refuses to open the MP3 and nanny software throws another wobbly. Off the internet, Sharepoint, shared network drive - wobbly.

So how do I play MP3 on this desktop?

music.mp3 becomes music.mp3.txt using the hacker command "rename" from the hacker program cmd.exe and the nanny software ignores it. Drag and drop said "text" file onto Windows Media Player and sound is produced.

Child's play. 13 year old child's play.

Good point (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42000903)

Parents do need to take a more active approach to "protecting" or "limiting" there children online. You always hear how a computer is filled with xxx or yyy and the parents had no idea. I think that is BS, if the parents aren't going to take an active stand then they have nothing to complain about. It's not even hard, decent security software is available for low cost and easy setup. It wont prevent the children from breaking the rules but at least if the rules are broken the parents can know they at least attempted to protect there wishes.

Re:Good point (2)

Inda (580031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001129)

What about the internet enabled phone? PS3? Wii? Toaster?

And then, forget P2P applications like Bearshare, which I only found out today still exists, and I did some of the early beta testing on it. Forget it because because MP3s can be downloaded from all manner of places. FTP, IM, HTTP, teh browser.

Bah to it all.

Re:Good point (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001199)

Okay well thats a good point but what I was getting at was the fact that parents need to at least try. Most parents I know are so useless on a computer it's a amazing.

Re:Good point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001625)

whats next, automatic lock on his bike so he can't bike with out a helmet or lights ? voice recognition shock collar so he can't tease other kids or swear?
preventive Disulfiram pills so he won't drink?

Parents are not necessarily administrators (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42000931)

"That court said the parents could have installed a firewall on their son's computer as well as a security program that would have made it possible to only allow the child to install software with the consent of his parents. Besides that, the parents could have checked their son's PC once a month, and then the parents would have spotted the Bearshare icon on the computers' desktop."

All of that is true. But expecting that of average parents is expecting them to have a fair bit of technical knowledge, and while the "Bearshare" icon might have been reasonably obvious, recognizing it for what it was would presume the parents know about that program versus the kajillion other icons that might have been scattered around on the desktop, and it assumes the solution for the kid wouldn't have been "Fine, I'll delete it. [deletes icon off the desktop]", which of course doesn't *really* delete the program. The parents have to understand the tool before they can *effectively* monitor its use. You might say that no parent should allow 13-year-old kids to use a computer connected to the internet unless they do have that kind of technical know-how, but if if that was the case most of the geeks around here would be fine, but you'd have to bar a lot of parents and teenagers from using a computer on the net, probably the great majority of them.

To use the inevitable analogy, it would be like insisting that parents were car mechanics before they could allow their child to drive.

Good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42001037)

...time to send the kid to a labor camp now.

Firewall? (5, Informative)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#42001127)

I don't have access to the first courts ruling.
But during the higher courts session it became clear: THEY HAD A FIREWALL and had tried to restrict his users rights to install new software.
Ofc. it is beyond any laymans responsibility to install aditional software to 'guard his children' from illegal activities.
Even more annoying: the law situation is crystal clear. Nevertheless the 'music company' sued in the hope to get a cheap victory in a lower court from an unexperienced judge.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42002049)

...does this mean they pay royalties when they sing "Happy Birthday" to him?

If not... HYPOCRITES!

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