German surfers risk fines of €100 if their open Wi-Fi connection gets used to download copyright-infringing material.
The regulation follows a ruling in Germany's top criminal court on Wednesday, AP reports. The Karlsruhe court ruled that Wi-Fi owners are liable for abuse by a third party in cases where they fail to password-protect their internet connections.
"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 court said.
The courts didn't stipulate what form of an encryption a connection needs to use (WPA or the far easier to crack WEP), or hold Wi-Fi owners responsible for offences related to the content that might be downloaded. Owners are simply required to password-protect a connection or risk a fine.
The decision came in a case brought by a unnamed musician who sued the user of an open internet connection that was used to upload his music onto a file-sharing network. The owner of the network was able to prove that he was on holiday at the time of the alleged offence.
Despite accepting this, the court held him partially responsible for the civil offence and levied a modest fine. ®