Last week, an opinion given by Advocate General Maciej Szpunar indicated that the owners of shops, hotels or bars providing free Wi-Fi for the public should not be liable for copyright infringements committed by users on their premises.

The opinion was given following a claim brought by Sony against Tobias McFadden, owner of a business selling and renting sound systems, and which also offers public Wi-Fi access. In 2010, a musical work was unlawfully downloaded on the network provided by the internet connection owned by Tobias McFadden.

The Advocate General stated that a limitation of liability applies to people who, adjunct to their principal economic activity, operate a Wi-Fi network with an internet connection that is accessible to the public free of charge. That limitation of liability would prevent the ordering of damages orders against such shop owners as well as costs pertaining to copyright infringements incurred by third parties.

However, that limitation of liability could not be use as a safeguard against injunctions, provided those are effective, aimed at bringing a specific infringement to an end, and fairly balance between rights of freedom of expression and freedom to conduct business with intellectual property rights.

While not binding, the opinion, is likely to be in line with the stance taken by the ECJ in its ruling on the matter. The EU Court of Justice is yet to issue a final opinion in the case.

In this day and age, such a statement is expected to have great consequences for shop owners which provide free access to Wi-Fi. Do you think that the Advocate General’s opinion is reasonable? Or do you believe that it may open the door for further infringement? Do not hesitate to share your thoughts on the matter on our Facebook page.