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The ECJ rules that free Wi-Fi providers cannot be held liable for acts of piracy by network users
21 October 2016

Operators in the leisure and hospitality sector will be very aware of their customers’ demands on them to offer free Wi-Fi. It has however been a genuine fear that by providing this facility they could be deemed liable for a user’s actions, such as pirating eBooks and music.

In what will come as a welcome relief, the ECJ has ruled* that operators offering free Wi-Fi will not be liable for copyright infringements committed by users of that network without their knowledge.

If a free Wi-Fi service is repeatedly used for acts of piracy the ECJ did say they could order the operator to impose password protection on the network and ask users to verify their identities before being given full access. It is perceived that this would be a likely deterrent for network users thinking of committing acts of piracy.

This decision is good news! For operators it dramatically reduces the risk of providing free Wi-Fi to customers and from a general perspective this should encourage the roll-out of good quality free public Wi-Fi.

For more information about the issues in this article or to find out more about how the Leisure and Hospitality sector can help you please contact the team on 0118 952 7711 or email leisure&[email protected].

*McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH (C-484/14) EU:C:2016:689 (ECJ (3rd Chamber))


Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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