Legal boost for open wi-fi networks

16-Mar-2016 @ 1:0

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An opinion from the European Court of Justice that businesses which offer free, open wi-fi in their premises should not be liable for how it is used, has been welcomed by a Conservative MEP.

Internal Market and Consumer Protection spokesman Vicky Ford MEP said the Advocate General's opinion, although not binding on the court, sent the right signal.

"While a balance has to be struck in protecting the legitimate interests of copyright holders, it would have been wrong to penalise businesses such as shops, cafes and hotels that offer free, open wi-fi to their customers," she said.

"The Digital Single Market is all about opening up the internet for public use and boosting commerce. There are issues surrounding data security on open networks, but any other opinion in this case would have been a step backwards and could have restricted the availability of wi-fi in a wide range of places where people gather."

Today's opinion follows a case in Munich in 2010 in which a person illegally offered music for download via an open wi-fi connection provided by a lighting business for its customers. Music publisher Sony brought a case of breach of copyright against the business owner as although internet service providers are covered for third party use, it is not clear the protection extends to companies offering open wi-fi as an adjunct to their main business.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar believes it does and considers that any obligation to make all wi-fi networks secure as a means of protecting copyright would represent "a restriction on the freedom of expression and information."

He adds: "Any general obligation to make access to a wi-fi network secure ... could be a disadvantage for society as a whole and one that could outweigh the potential benefits for rightholders."

Note for Editors
Read the European Court of Justice press release on the case at

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