Germany fines users for leaving Wi-Fi open

You could be fined for leaving your Wi-Fi connection open, according to a new court ruling in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The new ruling comes from a court action taken by a musician whose work had been illegally downloaded over a user’s Wi-Fi connection. That user was on holiday at the time and had documents to prove it, but they failed to password-secure their wireless connection, meaning that any nearby person could get access to it for all sorts of unscrupulous activity.

The court said: “Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorized third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation.”

The verdict was a €100 fine, which is rather paltry, but probably more than an innocent user with no clue about network security deserves.

The unnamed user was not found guilty of copyright infringement over the original accusations by the musician, but the court believed that some degree of responsibility is needed for third-party misuse of an unsecure connection. Meanwhile the person who actually illegally downloaded the music files is on some train right now with his iPod plugged in and a big fat grin on his face.

Of course, not everyone knows much about technology or security, so many find the ruling a little harsh, if not downright wrong. An analogy that shows up the flaws in the ruling would be if a person left their front door unlocked and someone entered the house and performed a crime there, would the homeowner by charged for not securing their door?

It’s like the next step up from a burglar suing the homeowner over an injury procured during a burglary. In other words, it’s ridiculous.

While it is unlikely this ruling will have a direct effect on users throughout the world new technology laws may bring a user liability clause in that will require users to be a little bit more careful with their network security.