Pub 'fined' US$12K for Wi-Fi copyright infringement

Companies offering open Wi-Fi access face legal uncertainty following a court case in the United Kingdom.

A U.K. pub owner has been fined 8,000 pounds (US$12,067) because someone unlawfully downloaded copyrighted material over their open Wi-Fi hotspot, according to the managing director of hotspot provider The Cloud.

Graham Cove told ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet UK last week he believes the case to be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. However, he would not identify the pub concerned, because its owner--a pubco that is a client of The Cloud's--had not yet given their permission for the case to be publicized.

Cove would say only that the fine had been levied in a civil case, brought about by a rights holder, "sometime this summer". The Cloud's pubco clients include Fullers, Greene King, Marsdens, Scottish & Newcastle, Mitchell & Butlers and Punch Taverns.

The law surrounding open Wi-Fi networks and the liability of those running them is a grey area.

According to Internet law professor Lilian Edwards, of Sheffield Law School, where a business operates an open Wi-Fi spot to give customers or visitors Internet access, they would be "not be responsible in theory" for users' unlawful downloads, under "existing substantive copyright law".

Read more on "Pub 'fined 8K pounds for Wi-Fi copyright infringement" from ZDNet UK.