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Is criminalising someone for NOT password-protecting their WiFi so wrong?

By on May 14, 2010

Of course it bloody is.

Berlin’s top criminal court yesterday passed this chilling wifi password judgement:

“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”

Words fail me at how wrong this is. It means that a cafe or a consumer which leaves their WiFi connection open for their friends, their customers, even for the good of society is guilty if anyone infringes any intellectual property over that connection. The fine may only be €100, but that is entirely beside the point.

It means that a WiFi connection does not benefit from the “common carrier” protection that ISPs and and telecoms companies use to prevent being prosecuted for aiding and abetting any crime that was organised by phone or email.

It puts an onus on the owner of the WiFi connection to police what happens over it.

That’s like holding a telco responsible for a terrorist attack because it was arranged by phone. Or a pub landlord responsible for a fight because it started on his premises. Or a car manufacturer responsible for a bank robbery because their car was used as a getaway vehicle.

Help me out here: I want to get the clearest, most apt analogy for how stupid this rule to use again and again with politicians and regulators in the UK to stop this kind of woolly thinking affecting judgments based on the Digital Economy Act.

So please post your suggestions below.

Thanks for helping.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: