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Hotels and cafes to benefit from relaxed rules on file sharing

Proposed new legislation in Germany is to see a relaxation of the rules on file sharing that will make it less risky for hotel and cafe owners to allow their guests to use the internet.

Hotels and cafes to benefit from relaxed rules on file sharing © Benjamin-Duda-Fotolia

Hotels and cafes to benefit from relaxed rules on file sharing © Benjamin-Duda-Fotolia

File sharing rules

Under the current law on file sharing in Germany, internet connection owners are often held liable for copyright infringements perpetrated by third parties. This occurs under a principle called “Störerhaftung” which places internet connection owners under a duty to secure their internet connection from abuse. If they fail to secure their connection and prevent third parties from committing violations, connection owners can be held liable as if they themselves had committed the infringement. The only exceptions are when the connection was secured or when adult family members committed the copyright infringements.

The unwelcome effect of this principle is that hotel and cafe owners are reluctant to allow guests access to the internet in case copyright infringements are committed and the owners are found liable.

New legislation

The Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, has announced plans to submit draft legislation which will relax the rules on Störerhaftung.

The proposals make good on intentions written into the coalition agreement adopted after Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) went into coalition. The political parties agreed that the burden on connection owners should be reduced and that it should be made easier for hotel and cafe owners to offer WiFi to their guests.

Criticism

The lobby group, Digital Gesellschaft, criticised the new plans for not intending to include a relaxation of the rules on Störerhaftung applicable to private individuals in the draft legislation.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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