Top Court closes down open password-free WiFi in Europe

von Patrick Breyer

15. September 2016

In a lawsuit brought by a German Pirate Party politician the European Court of Justice today ruled that open WiFi networks in Europe should be closed to stop copyright infringements. In case of abuse of a public WiFi network for filesharing the operator can be ordered to password-protect its network and disclose the password to identified users only, the Court ruled (Case C-484/14, McFadden vs. Sony Music). Patrick Breyer, the Pirate Party’s data protection expert, is appalled by this decision:

“This jurisprudence is backward and a technophobic bowing before the content industry. Following its logic using public telephone booths and letterboxes should require identification, too. The legislator needs to fix this.

Contrary to the Court’s assumption compulsory identification will not dissuade users from file-sharing. It is impossible to trace back a copyright infringement to a specific WiFi user even if they use a password. The Court is ignorant of the devastating consequences of this judgement for Europe’s information infrastructure.

Rights holders are sufficiently protected by mechanisms to have copyrighted content taken down ...

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