Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Wireless Networking

UK Pub Reportedly Fined For Illegal Wi-Fi Download 102

Posted by kdawson
from the so-they-say dept.
superglaze and several other readers noted a piece up on ZDNet.co.uk reporting that last summer a pub in the UK was fined £8,000 after a customer downloaded copyrighted material on its Wi-Fi connection. According to the article, whose source was the Wi-Fi hotspot provider, it was a civil action and the pub was not identified because its owner had not given permission to release the details. Techdirt is skeptical as to whether or not the reported fine happened, given the sketchiness surrounding the details. If true, the ruling seems baffling to UK legal experts, according to ZDNet: "Internet law professor Lilian Edwards, of Sheffield Law School, told ZDNet that companies that operate a public Wi-Fi hotspot should 'not be responsible in theory' for users' illegal downloads under 'existing substantive copyright law.'" In a follow-up article, Prof. Edwards cautions that such hotspot operators should "watch out for the pile of copyright infringement warnings coming your way."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK Pub Reportedly Fined For Illegal Wi-Fi Download

Comments Filter:
  • by PsychoSlashDot (207849) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:51PM (#30277828)

    No, no, and more no.

    This sort of litigation is unwise at best. If providing network access makes one responsible for the users' actions, that will severely impact availability of service. Hotels, coffee shops, airports and the like all become liable for their users. Bad move. What if I power my laptop using electricity at the pub but use an AirCard to use a cell phone network to infringe copyright? Ultimately this is foolishness, regardless of how copyright infringement is viewed.

    It's time to reinforce the concept that I am responsible for my actions, and nobody else. Aiding and abetting is something entirely different from what a WiFi provider does. Just because copyright owners can't actually track down the person infringing doesn't make it okay to pick the next guy up as the source of the proverbial pound of flesh.

    • "It's time to reinforce the concept that I am responsible for my actions, and nobody else. "
      That concept died decades ago. Visit digg or reddit for a quick reminder.

    • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:04PM (#30277960)

      If this report is true, someone who was mugged by a guy at night who was using the government's streetlights to commit the crime should sue the government. Turnabout's fair play.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      It's time to reinforce the concept that I am responsible for my actions, and nobody else

      Sure, if you agree to have the MAC address of the device in use registered under your name. If you falsify the MAC or provide wrongful data, you get life in prison. Your objective is to bow down and pay tribute to the media overlords. They are royalty. They have power above you. They feed the coffers of your politicians whome *snickers* represent you! How DARE YOU question their authority!!!

      • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:59PM (#30278324)
        Good thing MACs cant be changed or spoofed, or what a mess THAT would make ;)
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sure, if you agree to have the MAC address of the device in use registered under your name. If you falsify the MAC or provide wrongful data, you get life in prison. Your objective is to bow down and pay tribute to the media overlords

        Actually I think it's slightly different. You bow down to the media. The media overlords are standing behind you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267)

        If you falsify the MAC or provide wrongful data, you get life in prison.

        Noob question: was that hyperbole? I can never tell when talking about laws, especially ones that the mafIAA has pushed though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Thinboy00 (1190815)

          Definitely hyperbole in the U.S. (at least until ACTA gets ratified... if it is ratified at all). Not so sure about the U.K.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            You can't go to jail for changing a mac address, but you might if you do it in order to use someone else's wifi without their permission. That comes on the Computer Misuse Act.

      • "If you falsify the MAC or provide wrongful data, you get life in prison."

        Yes, I caught the sarcasm. But, PLEASE!! We can't even get dangerous, violent criminals put in jail for life. Put a petty thief in prison for life? Oh, lord - there is no sanity left in the world. None, I tell you. "Your honor, the defendant has copied my ideas, without authorization. I think he cost me somewhere between 1 dollar and 29 gazillion dollars. I want to make an example of him, so please, sentence him to life withou

    • You're absolutely correct, and I think that a phonebooth analogy ought to do pretty well here.
      • by unitron (5733)

        ...I think that a phonebooth analogy ought to do pretty well here.

        Sorry, this is /. It's gotta be a car analogy.

        • by srussia (884021)

          ...I think that a phonebooth analogy ought to do pretty well here.

          Sorry, this is /. It's gotta be a car analogy.

          It's like punishing the driver of a car who gave a lift to a hitchhiker who had just committed or was on his way to committing a crime.

        • by iamhassi (659463)
          "Sorry, this is /. It's gotta be a car analogy."

          Like fining the dealership who sold you a car that you used to run over someone.

          Or suing the govt for giving you a license.

          Or suing the store that sold you the vodka you were drunk on.

          story is completely bogus, there's no facts or proof of anything and it makes zero sense.
    • It's time to reinforce the concept that I am responsible for my actions, and nobody else.

      Well yeah, but you probably have less money than the pub does, so going after the pub is better.

      Wait, were we talking about what gets us the most money or something silly like what is fair and logical?

      Sincerely,
      Big Content

      • by the_arrow (171557)

        Well yeah, but you probably have less money than the pub does, so going after the pub is better.

        Reminds me of a Bllom County strip where Steve Dallas has been beaten by Sean Penn for taking a photo of him. Steve won't sue Sean, because Sean might come an beat him up again. He won't sue Opus (even if it was his fault), because he doesn't have any money. So sue the (wealthy) camera manufacturer for not having a warning label on the camera.

    • by pipatron (966506)

      The major difference is that when you use the service in the Hotel, Coffee shop, Airport, cellphone, you're most probably identified. Either because you paid to gain access to the service, or because you are somehow connected to the account.

      If this place was just letting anyone using the intarwebs without keeping any logs of what computers were using it, they MAFIAA have no choice but to go for the pub.

      And when the MAFIAA does anything, it's mostly the wrong and unethical thing to do, and the laws need to

      • "when you use the service in the Hotel, Coffee shop, Airport, cellphone, you're most probably identified."

        This assumes that you provide real ID when renting a room, or using services at a coffee shop or airport, or whatever. I've rented many motel rooms using false identities. $50 cash money talks. "Name?" "Ulysses Grant." "Driver's license?" "I don't drive." "How did you get here if you don't drive?" "I called a taxi." "Do you have a photo ID?" "My picture is right here, on this $50 bill." "Oh,

        • by socsoc (1116769)
          You must stay at some shady places if they don't require you to have a credit card for incidentals or damage to the room. I doubt Bumfuckski Redneck Lodge that would accept $50 and look the other way has wifi.
          • Red Roof Inns. Super 8. Best Western. Holiday Inn. Your assumptions are kind of funny. Not every city I have ever passed through has a 5 star hotel. I've slept in some places that didn't inspire me to write home about them - but hey, I didn't need a home. I just wanted a place to sleep. And, in recent years, even the real dives have wifi. There's a motel just a couple blocks from my place of employment with a collapsing roof, and obvious water damage visible in the walls - I'd rather sleep in my ca

    • by tg123 (1409503)

      Thank God, Buddha various Shinto deities etc. Japan does not have such laws or you would be stuffed.

      Just about every Hotel,Coffee shop, Hostel, Train station , Airport in Japan has free WIFI.

    • If this story is true, doesn't that make all ISPs responsible for the downloading of copyright material on their networks.

      ie. the internet is illegal!

  • by plover (150551) * on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:52PM (#30277840) Homepage Journal

    This story brought to you by the RIAA, striking fear across the globe.

    No fine too ridiculous! No defendant too vulnerable! No sense of proportion!

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:25PM (#30278082) Journal

      One can only hope that we get more and more outrageous cases, because it's clear the lawmakers and the courts are incapable of reigning in the stupidity. I hope they start fining little old grannies millions, and every WiFi hotspot in the industrialized world shuts down out of fear of litigation. I hope that the Internet is rendered practically useless by filters and deep packet inspections and the effective banning of encrypted data. I hope the whole thing slows down so badly that the lawmakers are either forced to backtrack or it finally becomes a big enough electoral issue that all the filthy whores that occupy the halls of power are swept away.

      The reason I hope this is because it seems clear that lawmakers, either being complete fucking retards or sucking at the teats of Big Media are incapable or unwilling to start putting the brakes on this. Sometimes it takes enough worst case scenarios to wake the public up to the reality that the whores they elect have ceased representing them, and the force of public will starts making progress. I mean, that's what it finally took to send the message that the Iraq War was an absurd waste of money and resources.

      The one thing it proves is that people, lawmakers and voters, are utterly incapable of seeing the consequences of actions before the actions are taken.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        There is a definitive difference in a Hotel providing free wifi to it's customers, rather than a typical end users unsecure service. Much like playing a radio in a hotel in order to attract customers so wifi is doing the same thing, even if it is legal internet radio.

        Hmm, although technically the hotel is already paying those required fees for juke boxes, live bands and of course radio and tv. Now as it is likely that what ever content was being down loaded was likely be played free to air some where on

        • by Dan541 (1032000)

          With USB memory sticks rapidly heading to a dollar a gigabyte swapping terabytes of content is likely going to be quicker and easier via sneaker net. New net service, localised pub meets for data exchange, adults only, no infectious content allowed, argh me harty a pub full o pirates, music, movies and beer.

          What if we start sending usb sticks in tangible form. Will the postal service be shut down?

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        Vote for the Pirate Party.

    • by tg123 (1409503)

      This story brought to you by the RIAA, striking fear across the globe.

      No fine too ridiculous! No defendant too vulnerable! No sense of proportion!

      This Story was also brought to you by the Letters B , S , F & U

    • This story brought to you by the RIAA, striking fear across the globe.

      Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined; leaves an aftertaste every time!

    • by gsslay (807818)
      Where is the RIAA involved in this story? See, if you can't point out for me I might end up thinking your post was a mindless knee jerk recital.
    • This story brought to you by the RIAA, striking fear across the globe.

      not really, since the lesson is: download copywritten material and pay a fine- unless it is someone else's network- then they are responsible
      it fails to strike fear when someone else is getting nailed for your actions

  • Slippery Slope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aXis100 (690904) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:54PM (#30277866)

    This is scarily along the lines of the iiNet (popular Australian ISP) versus AFACT (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) case that just finished in the courts a few days ago. We're all waiting for the Judge's ruling next year as it could set a huge precedent.

    See http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=afact+vs+iinet [google.com]

  • I'll be starting a coffeeshop on my front porch. Free wifi, $30 coffee; I'm not zoned for parking, so you'll get towed after 30 minutes.

  • Rumor propagation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:57PM (#30277902) Journal
    Nice, some rumor propagation on the front page.

    Supposedly, according to a wifi hotspot provider, one of their unnamed clients was fined because an unnamed patron downloaded some unnamed copyrighted material.

    I'm surprised the amount wasn't also undisclosed.

    Now, I'm all for the birth of new urban legends for the hi-tech crowd... and maybe I'm a bit cynical, but this sure seems like some nice marketing for that wifi company, whose name I will omit in case marketing is what this is about.

    See, they get their name plastered on the intertubes, while their claim will get thoroughly debunked, and all people will remember is the name of the company and the fact that public wifi operators are protected by safe harbor laws.

    If the pub DID really get fined GBP 8k for copyright violations, it's probably more likely that it was because they were streaming sports content live to their patrons. This is how I watch Rutgers football games that are not on TV... I go to a bar where they stream the games (albeit at very low res with some hiccuping) onto a big-screen TV.

    But, I'm guessing here, based on the words of that wifi company. Which is the same thing everyone is doing, so why can't we just ignore this stupid story until there is some actual fact-checking done?
    • by esampson (223745) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:06PM (#30277972) Homepage

      Your honor, I would like to refer you to the case of RIAA vs Makeshitup in which it was clearly proven that the RIAA was in the right.

      • Well in a court of law the RIAA is obviously and irrefutably right!

        I wish I was born ~(~20) (don't yell at me about the math, I'm too young to be educated about this) years ago so that at my current age the biggest evil online would be the cabal (OMG Firefox thinks "online" isn't a word).

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Fearmongering... Fox didnt invent it, but they sure as hell showed how easy it is to make money off it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For the first time, I'm with the RIAA on this one. Everton lost. I'm suing the pub for the trauma they inflicted on me and the beer was crap too.

  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:58PM (#30277916)

    A couple of jobs ago I had several clients who were cafe's providing free Wifi.
    Their setups just consisted of home Wifi routers, they had no ability to account for the traffic that passed through their networks and had no way to control access.

    Today you can get box solutions for under $1000 dollars to provide basic Identity Management, monitoring, logging and firewall/proxy control to give you more control but many of those solutions are still not enough to prevent file sharing, or provide extended logging with 12 months or more records in case you have to prove a legal issue.

    Much of the train of thought with many of these hotspot operators is to offer wifi because the cafe/restaurant down the street does it and they have no thought of their legal obligations as a service provider and really are not aware of the risk that goes with it.

    The BSA/RIAA/MPAA could have a field day attempting to sue the pants off these kind of operators if they really wanted to focus their attention on it.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:07PM (#30277978) Journal
      It wouldn't even have to be the BSA/RIAA/MPAA.

      It'd be pretty easy for somebody with some letterhead and a paralegal's knowledge of the terminology to just do a snailmail spam campaign against a broad swath of demographically suitable addresses.

      If the target calls their lawyer, or refuses to cave, just back off, and rake it in from all the poor saps who freak out and cave when they get a nasty letter from "Somebody, Somebody, and Somebody-Else, LLC, Solicitors, representing Big Scary Corporation, concerning irrefutable evidence of your being an evil pirate" and urging them to make a modest cash "settlement" rather than face court.

      You could probably make real money doing that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by shermo (1284310)

        Unfortunately the RIAA already has the patent on that method.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mpe (36238)
          Unfortunately the RIAA already has the patent on that method.

          Which was overturned due to prior art. Bogus invoicers having been around for a long time...
      • And land yourself in real jail as you are effectively defrauding people. Thanks to the money involved, there's either a trail to follow, or if you meant actual cash, a person who's collecting it who can be arrested directly in a sting operation.

        • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:32PM (#30278148) Homepage

          And in the USA the hotspot operators have immunity under the DMCA "safe harbor" provision.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          It certainly would be fraud; but I have the unpleasant suspicious that it'd be the sort of fraud that is just white-collar enough to work for a surprisingly length of time. Consider the Blue Hippo case that hit slashdot a couple of weeks back. Those guys stiffed ~30,000 people, through the US mail, which means that virtually all of the stiffings are probably felonies, and the FTC is just now getting around to doing some investigating and sending harshly worded letters.

          Or, more to the point, Look what jus [arstechnica.com]
      • by westlake (615356)

        It'd be pretty easy for somebody with some letterhead and a paralegal's knowledge of the terminology to just do a snailmail spam campaign against a broad swath of demographically suitable addresses.

        This is mail fraud.

        It can put you away in a federal pen for twenty years.

        Title 18 - Part 1 - Chapter 63-- Mail Fraud and Other Fraud Offenses - 1341 Frauds and swindles [cornell.edu]

        Prosecution Policy Relating to Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud [justice.gov]

      • by u38cg (607297)
        This already happens regularly. Most UK businesses will receive at regular intervals letters informing them that their registration for xyz.co.uk with the "UK Network Domain Names Directory" (or similar) is about to expire and must be renewed now for £500. If they're smart, they also match it up with your domain expiry so the recipient has a chance of remembering there is something significant about that date. I've more than once stopped my boss from writing out a cheque on the spot...
    • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:47PM (#30278256) Homepage

      Today you can get box solutions for under $1000 dollars to provide basic Identity Management, monitoring, logging and firewall/proxy control to give you more control but many of those solutions are still not enough to prevent file sharing, or provide extended logging with 12 months or more records in case you have to prove a legal issue

      Get real. For a small business owner, a 'under $1000 dollars box solution with monitoring, logging etc.' is massive overkill. For a restaurant or small hotel, it's nice to provide your guests with free wireless internet access. But that's simply a service, a bonus, and nothing more. As provider of that extra service:

      • You probably don't have the money to spend much on it, since it isn't a necessity in any way (not for you, probably not for your guests).
      • You don't have the time or (wo)manpower (or expertise) to fiddle with it much, monitor activity, check logfiles or such. Your personnel is busy pouring coffee, you're busy running your business.

      Basically you'd want a small, cheap 'thingie' that hooks up to your internet connection, throw that in a corner, and forget about it until a guest asks why the wireless internet isn't working. Holding you responsible, or expecting you to monitor what happens on that service, is a) unrealistic, and b) unreasonable. It would be much too ask even for an ISP, whose breat and butter it is. For a small business owner, it's just a sideshow. Legislators (and courts) should keep this in mind.

      • I'm sure that our dear legislators will somehow find a way to forget their oft-professed love for small businesses when the big businesses that pay for their elections come knocking.
      • I'm not sure about UK Law, but Law in Australia has provisions where a non-commercial wifi hotspot served in a single premises is exempt from requiring a carrier license.

        This means that the registered owner of the Internet Account is ultimately responsible for the internet connection, as they are not licensed and are not bound by the legal obligations of being a Carrier/ISP.

        This puts them in a legal grey area when someone they allow/invite onto their network and someone does wrong thing as they are not affo

      • by socsoc (1116769)
        I get your idea for a restaurant and many of those have started using providers anyways so they don't even own the equipment. But a hotel? You're gonna need a lot more backend stuff and better wap than a little linksys to give your guests internet access. $1000 would be cheap for a hotel to come out with, I'd imagine a lot more depending on the floors and layout of the hotel.
  • The hotspot owner was likely sued for refusing to do anything about repeated infringement on their network. I can't speak for the UK, but in the States, so long as you ban any MAC address associated with an IP the *IAA sends your way, they're basically happy that you've taken the trouble to minimize downloading (and the majority of pirates aren't going to bother MAC spoofing when they can just go down the street or buy what they wanted.)

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Ahh, the courtroom.

      Ye olde coliseum, where we swing lawsuits instead of swords, and people bleed dollars instead of blood. ...We haven't really changed much have we?

  • News Flash! There was a questionable story posted last year! As a new development, some people still think it's questionable!
  • This begs the question of what a public hotspot is defined as.

    If this gets overruled then I'm opening up my wireless to the public at 1K/sec so I can't be held legally responsible for any copyright infringement that occurs from my connection.

  • Legal-Eagle: "companies that operate a public Wi-Fi hotspot should 'not be responsible in theory' for users' illegal downloads under 'existing substantive copyright law.'"

    Quite right. However...

    RIAA/MPAA/(EU equivalent): "Pay us or we use your @$$#0[3 as a target for the caber toss. [wikipedia.org]"

    Guess what happens. (Note that's a statement, not a question.)

  • this needs to stop. If this is allowed to happen then RIAA and MPAA and every other AA will just sue every hotspot operator in the country with little to no proof and force them to settle. goodbye to open wifi and lets stay in the dark ages forever
    • by vxice (1690200)
      I'm not certain the only thing keeping us out of the dark ages is publicly available wifi. Likely MPAA/RIAA and friends will try to ban open wifi hot spots and end up getting a requirement to follow best practices to secure their hot spots. This would not be too unreasonable, you are expected to lock your hose when you leave correct?
      • by socsoc (1116769)
        I never lock my hose, I guess anyone can come use it as needed. Hopefully they won't leave it on, as I'm metered.
  • They won't be satisfied by just suing just the hotspots. Real soon, they will run traceroute and sue every hop.

  • It's all B.S. fascist propaganda to crack down on everyone in the interest of corporate profits.

  • Just so I'm clear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nightfire-unique (253895) on Monday November 30, 2009 @09:33PM (#30278496)

    If one of their customers had ordered a CD with a fraudulent credit card (over their payphone), would the fine have been more, or less?

    • by Nukenbar (215420)

      Fined? His ass is going to jail.

      What we are talking about is a civil action. What you discuss is clearly criminal.

      • by Sabriel (134364)
        GP presumably means the fine (conviction) to the pub, not the customer. IE, if Fred uses the pub's payphone to commit CC fraud, without the pub's knowledge, should the pub be fined (jailed)?
  • On my trip to the US(Chicago), I was surprised to see all the open WiFi hotspots so many places. I used them often with my iPhone to Skype home and save 2$ pr. minute.
    With the current anti-terror laws in many EU countries you have to register and log everything, making providing hotspots a real pain in the a.. and I find it rare to see free open hotspots anywhere. But it might just have been the places I have visited.
     

  • If the pub was robbed using a knife from said pub, should the pub also be responsible for what the person committing the crime did?
  • And, out of my earshot, you order drugs from your dealer, or for that matter,
    give the launch command for the terrorist bombing attack.

    So I guess I am vicariously liable for your criminal action?

    I can't see anything in my example that is not parallel to the case mentioned.

  • If this holds up then gun manufacturers can be held liable for murders using this as a precedence.
  • As far as I remember the Mumbai bombers used Thuraya satellite phones, they all have IMEI numbers but the gateway for the network is in the UAE, so well outside India's control.

    This seems like just another power grab/invasion of privacy and like forcing people to use WPA on their routers, trying to make sure every packet on the internet has a traceable owner.
  • Article submitter (kdawson ...) jumps to the conclusion that the downloader was a customer. Nowhere in the linked article does is say that it was a customer, merely that it was "someone".

    If that "someone" was the pub manager then I can see why the pub manager would be the one sued by the copyright holder.

The ideal voice for radio may be defined as showing no substance, no sex, no owner, and a message of importance for every housewife. -- Harry V. Wade

Working...