• German Federal Supreme Court Rebukes Third-Party Liability for Password Protected Wireless Networks
  • March 3, 2017 | Authors: Viola Bensinger; Christoph Enaux; Stefan Lütje
  • Law Firm: Greenberg Traurig Germany, LLP - Berlin Office
  • On November 24, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) held (in German only) that the owner of a wireless network that is password protected by market standards is not liable for copyright violations committed by unauthorized third party users.
    The underlying case was brought before the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) by the owner of the exploitation rights to the film "The Expendables 2". The film was made publicly available and offered for download via the defendant’s internet access by an unknown third party, who had obtained unauthorized access to the defendant’s wireless network. The BGH denied the defendant's third party liability (Störerhaftung) for these acts since he had not violated any duty of care. Owners of internet access equipped with a wireless network are obliged to verify whether the router complies with market standard security measures for private consumers at the time of installation. The defendant’s router was secured by a pre-set, individual 16-digit WPA2 password, which was recognized as a current and sufficiently secure encryption standard at the time of purchase. The court also thought it irrelevant that the defendant had left the pre-set password unchanged since purchasing the router. Therefore, the court ruled that the defendant was not liable for copyright violations committed by third parties via his wireless network.