Finnish Court: Open WiFi Owner Not Liable for File-Sharing Copyright Infringement

Press Release 14.5.2012

Helsinki, Finland

Finnish Court: Open WiFi Owner Not Liable for File-Sharing Copyright Infringement

In a landmark ruling, a Finnish District Court (Ylivieskan käräjäoikeus) has today clarified the legal status of WiFi owners for internet file-sharing in the light of various pieces of EU legislation.

Finnish Anti-Piracy Centre, a coalition of entertainment industry rights-holders, had sued a Finnish woman for copyright infringement, demanding compensation of circa 6000 euros for internet file-sharing conducted with the Direct Connect (DC++) protocol through her internet connection.

This alleged copyright infringement had taken place in a specific 12-minute period in July 14 2010, a date when a summer theater play with an audience of around hundred people was held at the premises of the former school owned and resided by the lady.

The applicants were unable to provide any evidence that the connection-owner herself had been involved in the file-sharing. The court thus examined whether the mere act of providing a WiFi connection not protected with a password can be deemed to constitute a copyright-infringing act.

Crucially, the applicants also sought an injunction to prevent the defendant for committing any similar acts in the future. Had the injunction been granted, the legal status of various open WiFi providers would have turned out extremely difficult, as rights-owners would have been provided with a powerful legal weapon to shut them down in cases of similar, arguably insignificant infringements by incidental visitors and customers.

In practice, the court interpreted the Finnish legislation involving the implementation of several directives in force throughout the EU (especially the Directive 2000/31/EC on certain legal aspects of information society services, the Copyright Directive 2001/29/EC and the Copyright Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC.)

Finally, the court concluded that the WiFi owner cannot be deemed liable for the infringements actually committed by third parties.

If the applicants appeal, the case will be examined in the Vaasa Court of Appeals. A preliminary reference to the European Court of Justice, settling the issue once and for all throughout Europe, still remains a conceivable option.

The defendant was represented in the district court by Turre Legal lawyers Ville Oksanen and Lassi Jyrkkiö.

Additional Information:

Ville Oksanen (LL.M, PhD)

Partner, Turre Legal Oy

ville.oksanen@turre.com, +358 40 5368583