A German court has ruled on a copyright infringement case that dates back to 2011 and the verdict has disturbing consequences for parents. The ruling found that parents must identify their child by name as the one responsible for downloading a torrent or they will be held responsible for the violation.
A series of recent cases have been defining how Germany’s legal system will handle parents who claim to have not been involved in illegal file-sharing but are being pursued by copyright claimants. The latest involves a claim brought by Universal Music Group regarding the illegal downloading of Rihanna’s 2011 album Loud. The parents received a notice from Universal demanding payment. The parents said they weren’t really fans of Ri-Ri but one of their three children was responsible. They had no intention of ratting on their own kid and took their case to court.
In October of last year, the same court had to review a similar case in which a man denied pirating files and named his wife as a co-user of the household broadband connection. He refused to detail his wife’s browsing habits and successfully argued that under German law citizens are protected from violating the privacy of their family.
But this week’s verdict was different. The parents were found liable for the child’s torrenting and ordered to pay €3,879.80 ($4,137.61) in fines. The court chairman, Wolfgang Büscher, argued that this case “is not comparable” to the one from October because the child had admitted everything to their parents. Because the parents had admitted that they knew which child was responsible but refused to give a name they will have to “bear the corresponding disadvantages.”
It’s a blow to the parents of torrent-happy children across Germany and follows on the heels of a similar case from earlier in March. In those proceedings, a father claimed that his 11-year-old son had downloaded a book that was the subject of a copyright complaint. He explained that he had warned his son not to “download random things or do anything dangerous,” according to Torrent Freak. A judge ruled that the father would have to be held responsible for the download because he is required to “instruct a child on the illegality of participating in illegal file-sharing exchanges, and to explicitly prohibit this behavior.”
These developments add to the ongoing complexities of the German approach to determining how the law will handle the new issues that arise from the widespread use of the internet. While Germany is considered one the best countries in the world for internet freedom and the protection of privacy, it’s also quite strict when it comes to the enforcement of copyright. That has opened the door for copyright trolls who can take advantage of timid users, much like the recent Prenda Law case in the United States.