If you provide free wi-fi what steps do you take to identify who is using your service? After a recent case in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) you may wish to review your current practice.
The case in question centred on the provision of free wi-fi by a small business. One customer used that free service to download illegal copies of music owned by Sony. Sony claimed against the provider of the free wi-fi claiming direct liability for infringement of its rights. The ECJ held that injunctions can be granted by national courts to require wi-fi service providers (in this case the small business) to take technical measures to prevent third parties from infringing the copyright protected works of others.
Use of a password, provided that users are required to disclose their identity in order to get the password, would be enough to dissuade users from infringing copyright without restricting their access to websites. This balances the rights of the copyright owners against the right of the business owner to conduct his business and the right of others to freedom of information.
There is no need to monitor the traffic through the wi-fi service but any business that continues to provide free wi-fi without restriction will be liable to a fine as well as damages for any further or continuing infringement of any injunction brought against them. Businesses should consider setting up password protection of their wi-fi connection in this way with a view to being seen as protecting copyright owners and dissuading users from infringement.
If you would like advice about the issues raised in this article then talk to Tollers on 01908 396 230 and ask to speak to Liz Appleyard in our commercial team.