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Germany's highest court rules parents not liable for adult children's file sharing

Loek Essers | Jan. 10, 2014
In a case that has gone on for years, Germany's highest court further reduced the legal responsibilities of Internet connection owners when it ruled Wednesday that parents are in principle not liable if their adult children use the family Internet connection for file sharing.

Only if the owner of the Internet connection has a specific reason to suspect that family members are using the connection for rights violations, should he take the necessary measures to prevent infringements, the court said.

Since there is no evidence the stepfather had such suspicions, he is not liable for his stepson's infringements, the court ruled. He would also not have been liable if he did not, or did not sufficiently, inform his stepson of the illegality of participating in file-sharing networks, the court added.

The stepfather could be liable only if the stepson used the Internet connection for copyright violations, his stepfather knew about it and did nothing to prevent it, said Karin Milger, a judge and spokeswoman for the Federal Court of Justice who was not part of the judges panel in the case.

The ruling doesn't mean that the stepson now has to pay the compensation demanded by the record companies, she said. They could however decide to sue the stepson because he did violate the rights of the copyright holders, she added.

As is customary in Germany, the names of those involved in the case were not divulged for privacy reasons.

 

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