On 2 June, the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag)
passed a bill (2. Gesetz zur Änderung des
Telemediengesetzes – 2nd Amending Law to the Federal
Telemedia Act; "New Law"). The New
Law limits the scope of potential liability for transmitting
information for all professional and non-professional operators of
Wi-Fi networks. In particular, operators of Wi-Fi networks shall
not be liable for copyright infringements committed by the relevant
Wi-Fi networks' users, providing that:
The network operator has not caused the relevant
The network operator has not chosen the recipient of the
The network operator has not chosen or changed the transmitted
The above exemptions shall also apply to short-term automatic
store of the relevant information. The exemption shall not apply in
the event that the Wi-Fi network operator collaborates with the
user in order to commit illegal acts. Notably, there is no specific
requirement for Wi-Fi network operators to implement and maintain
reasonable security measures, such as access controls.
The New Law's primary aim is to provide operators of Wi-Fi
networks with the necessary legal certainty in relation to
potential liability for copyright infringements committed by users.
This appeared to be necessary, since so far it has not been clear
whether and to what extent an operator of a Wi-Fi network shall be
liable for copyright infringements committed by the users of the
relevant Wi-Fi network (so-called Störerhaftung).
Fearing potential negative consequences, smaller companies in
particular, such as cafés or hotels, often desisted from
providing Wi-Fi networks to their customers, which resulted in
competitive disadvantages. With the New Law, the German Parliament
seeks to achieve better Wi-Fi coverage across Germany. Further, the
risk of injunctions by copyright holders shall be reduced.
With this approach, the German Parliament follows the Opinion of Advocate General Szpunar in the
proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union, Case
C-484/14, of 16 March 2016. The Opinion suggests that the previous
legal framework in Germany, which imposes liability upon operators
of Wi-Fi networks publicly available free of charge, is not in
-line with EU legislation. The New Law shall come into effect three
days after publication in the official journal
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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