Bar Owner Fined $13,000 For Copyright Infringement on an Open Hotspot

Justin Kerr

Alcohol has been blamed for some pretty outrageous things over the years, but this is the first time I’ve heard anyone blame it for copyright infringement. It’s a bizarre argument to make, but its likely one a UK based bar owner will be considering after being handed down an £8,000 fine , which works out to about $13,000 USD. Worse yet, the bar is likely not even responsible for the infringement since the offense occurred on the pubs open Wi-Fi hotspot, a fact that is sure to spur an interesting debate over responsibility.

According to Internet law professor Lillian Edwards of the Sheffield Law School, open Wi-Fi operators “should not be responsible in theory” for the actions of their users. The bar will likely be immune from the disconnection clause in the new Digital Economy Bill since it can be classified as a public communications service provider, but it will be interesting to see if this will also eventually get them out of the fine as well.

The debate over who is responsible for network security is an interesting one, and is sure to eventually cross borders as well. If laws end up making it too dangerous to operate open hotspots, what’s next? If a neighbor comes along and cracks your WEP key and downloads copyrighted material, do you fine the owner of the router for not having stronger security?

Let us know what you think.

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