Illegal downloads – subscribers must help with clarification

We forbade the children to do so, and none of us were. But who then? That is the crux of copyright infringement on the internet. Those who do not participate in the clarification will end up paying for it themselves.

Only family members know the WiFi password. And all children have been instructed not to download any illegal content or to make it available for download themselves. According to a new court ruling, this is not enough.

Court ruling strengthens authors

Internet connection owners who argue in this way in a file-sharing legal dispute do not exonerate themselves. You would either have to do specific research or pay compensation.

In the case, a woman was sued for downloading a copyrighted feature film (“Forever Single?”) Via the family’s Internet connection in her name – if only for barely an hour in the middle of the night. Internet connections and their owners can be identified via the IP address.

To be clueless does not work

In court, the woman stated that it was not her and that she slept during the period in question. The PC can be used by everyone in the family, but is always switched off at night. The WLAN was encrypted and secured with a password. The family also talked about not downloading or offering any protected content, i.e. not using file sharing software.

Who used the PC could not be clarified, the woman continued. They only consider independent data transfer or a hacker attack to be conceivable. There is also no file-sharing software on the PC. The court commissioned an expert to examine the information provided by the plaintiff. This came to the conclusion that their claims were correct.

Heavy fines for illegal downloads

Nevertheless, the court sentenced the woman to pay 1391 euros plus interest as compensation. It also has to cover the costs for the expert opinion of more than 3400 euros and the legal fees.

Also interesting: What is the threat if I illegally watch Bundesliga games?

The judges justified their decision by stating that the subscriber had a “secondary burden of proof” if an infringement of the law was committed via her Internet connection. You have to inform whether other people – and if necessary who – had access to the connection and could be considered as perpetrators.

Specific research is needed

Connection owners generally have the duty to carry out reasonable investigations, the judges further explained. It is not enough to say that everyone in the family can access the Internet via the connection. The Federal Court of Justice even demands that subscribers must investigate the usage situation at the specific time of the offense and communicate findings – even if this means that a family member has to be named as the perpetrator.

The defendant’s allegations that the other family members also had PC access, but that the computer was switched off at night, were too general and did not meet the secondary burden of proof.

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