European Court of Justice (ECJ) decides on liability of WLAN access provider

In a decision of September 15, 2016 (C-484/14, Tobias McFadden vs. Sony Music Entertainment) the ECJ had to answer several questions concerning the liability of a commercial company which had offered to third parties a free-of-charge WLAN internet access. Third parties had misused this internet access by using a peer-to-peer filesharing system, thereby infringing the copyrights of Sony Music Entertainment. In a nutshell, it was decided that the access provider is generally not liable for the damage caused by this and also not liable for cost reimbursement with regard to a warning letter to that extent. However, the access provider is liable to the extent that he has to stop further infringements. Furthermore, he is liable for the reimbursement of costs related to a warning letter directed against further infringements. The access provider has a choice which technical means are applied to stop further infringements. A minimum requirement is to secure the internet access by means of a password, whereby the users of the access have to reveal their identity in order to receive the required password. Third parties must not find comfort in their anonymity when infringing third parties’ rights.