March 27, 2015

The German Störerhaftung of Wifi

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It does not feel good when you are exposed to risks. Exactly this happens, exposure to potential liabilities, when you share your Wifi connection in Germany with others. Störerhaftung, secondary liability. As a result you hardly find public open wifi spots anymore as we used to have them all over Germany in the early days.  The legal situation is actually quite mixed and the government prepared a new draft law that would not resolve the issue. In the case of the FFII e.V. it went like this, we had an open wifi in the office even when it was starting to get uncommon. Then an unknown person abused our wireless network for illegal activities and members of our office had an awkward interview at the police. Guess what we did? We closed the public access point and applied a very complicated wifi access pass phrase.

Sure, there is the great work of the Freifunk community here in Berlin that promotes sharing of wireless internet and mesh protocols. The uptake of this fascinating technology got seriously stifled by the legal risk perception. If you really want to, you could mitigate the legal risks. But you know, we have other core business to do than to take a stand on wifi, for instance we try to limit the patent risks for software development. Embarrassing to ourselves we chose to be be on the safe side though we are completely with the “open” activists in that respect. We would like to share again our network with our neighbours. We would like to promote a culture of wifi sharing. We would like to access wifi in the public. We sincerely hope that the legislator gets it right.