Richard Ashworth, MEP for South East England, has welcomed a legal opinion from the European Court of Justice stating that businesses which offer free wi-fi should not be liable if users of the service illegally access copyrighted material on their network.
The opinion follows a case in Germany where a shop owner has refused to pay a penalty fee applied by Sony Music to the business after a customer used the free wi-fi to facilitate illegal music downloads and therefore breach copyright laws. While the opinion is not legally binding, it offers an insight into the final verdict which is expected in the next few months.
In response Mr Ashworth commented: “This opinion sends the right signal that the EU is on the side of businesses who provide free wi-fi hotspots used by thousands of people every day. It is of course crucial to strike the right balance between protecting copyright holders and those who provide free wireless internet. However penalising shops, cafes and hotels that offer open wi-fi to their customers would be the wrong approach to dealing with this issue.”
“Increasing the availability of and access to the internet for people across Europe is crucial for the success of our economy. We live in an internet age and doing all we can to boost access to wi-fi hotspots for British people is vital. I hope that the ECJ will follow the direction given within this opinion and subsequently this encourages more businesses to establish access to free wi-fi for their customers.”