21. July 2014
Many hotels offer guests free Wi-Fi internet access. In an important case, a court in Germany has clarified that hotel owners can no longer be held liable for the file sharing activities of guests, provided sufficient precautions are taken.
Hotel owners not liable for file sharing
A recent and important case in Germany demonstrates how the tough stance previously taken against hotel owners in file sharing cases has begun to weaken (see judgment from 18.06.2014, case ref. 161 C 145/14).
A copyright holder had accused a hotel owner of breaching German copyright law by allowing a copyright-protected pornographic film to be exchanged via a file sharing website on the hotels Wi-Fi network.
To settle the claim, the copyright holder demanded that the hotel owner pay compensation and legal fees totalling almost €2,000 and submit an undertaking to cease and desist.
The court rejected the copyright holder’s claim.
No presumption of guilt
The court found that the hotel owner could not be held liable as a direct perpetrator as there was proof that the internet network was a guest network used only by hotel guests and employees. This meant that the presumption of guilt against the connection owner which would normally apply in file sharing cases could be rebutted.
The court further found that the hotel owner could not be held liable for a breach of duty of care as the connection had been properly secured using standard default security settings and the owner had regularly changed the password access to the account.
Liability was also rejected by the court as the hotel owner had provided sufficient information and instruction to guests and employees on index cards prohibiting the download and upload of copyright-protected material.
Finally, the court held that as this was the first time a guest had conducted file sharing via the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, there was no requirement for the hotel owner to have monitored the connection beforehand.
The court’s ruling complies with the welcomed improvement in file sharing judgments of late. The district court Frankfurt am Main also recently ruled out the liability of hotel operators for file sharing, provided certain conditions are met (case ref: 2-06 S 19/09) and this judgment was followed by the county court Hamburg (case ref. 25b C 431/13).
Here at WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE, we represent a number of hotel owners in file sharing matters and we can help you to draft the relevant information for customers.
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