The role of an open Wi-Fi network in copyright infringement has generated a lot of debate in the entire world. Lawyers abound both arguing for and against the liability of the owners of such networks in the event of any copyright infringement. While one side argues for the rightful claim of copyright-holders over their content, the other side insists that holding an individual owner responsible for the action of others is wrong. And in a recent case in Finland, the court sided with the latter group.
The Necessity of Internet
To imagine people’s lives without the internet is almost impossible. The degree of human dependence on this medium is too large at the moment. This has also meant that people have invested large amounts of money in multiple devices with web-access feature and a range of networking equipment to feed those devices.
The Role of Wi-Fi & Wireless Routers
Most of the networking that is today commonplace in many homes is of a wireless nature. It is widespread upto the extent where such wireless networking is almost considered a basic requirement of any house. This has meant that the humble wireless router, which enables such wireless networks, is now at the center of a raging battle between lawyers working on file-sharing lawsuits. The million dollar question is,
“Should the owner of a wireless and unprotected network be held responsible for copyright infringement committed on his network by another unauthorized person accessing it?”
A Landmark Judgment
A Finnish district court explained its stand vis-à-vis the above question following an almost two yearlong case pertaining to file-sharing. A summary of the case is as follows,
In 2010, a local woman was identified and subsequently sued for infringing a copyright by the anti-piracy group CIAPC. The group claimed that the woman accessed Direct Connect to impede on the rights of certain members of the entertainment industry. They demanded that the woman pay up an amount of 6000 Euros for them to drop the lawsuit or face harsh consequences.
The woman, in a show of remarkable gut, instead chose to fight the CIAPC in a court of law. The alleged offence took place on July 14th, 2010 during a 12 minute time window. This was also the time when the woman’s home was playing host to almost a 100 people. The alleged copyright infringement could have been committed by anyone of them by accessing her open Wi-Fi.
Failure of CIAPC & Implications of the Judgment
In the end, the CIAPC was unable to pin down the woman as the culprit of the copyright infringement that was committed. In its overview of the case, the Finnish court also examined prevailing EU laws on the issue before pronouncing the woman innocent.
The court ruled that the owners of Wi-Fi connections cannot be blamed responsible for copyright infringement acts committed by third parties. Conversely, this is a stand that still generates a lot of heated debate in the USA.
As for the CIAPC, they still do have the option of appealing in the European Court of Justice. Meanwhile the ruling will definitely cause concern among Teosto and IFPI, both of which are Finnish Composer’s Copyright Societies currently engaged in tracking down Finnish music pirates.