West Midlands MEP welcome Wi-Fi ruling

An opinion from the European Court of Justice that businesses which offer free, open Wi-Fi in their premises should not be liable for how it is used, has been welcomed by a local Conservative MEP.

The West Midlands MEP and Conservative Consumer Affairs spokesman Daniel Dalton said the Advocate General's opinion, although not binding on the court, sent the right signal.

“It would have been very dangerous to penalise businesses such as shops, cafes and hotels that offer free, open Wi-Fi to their customers and probably would have made it much less likely that they would offer such a service" he said.

"The Digital Single Market is all about opening up the internet for public use and boosting commerce. There are issues surrounding data security on open networks, but any other opinion in this case would have been a step backwards and could have restricted the availability of Wi-Fi in a wide range of places where people gather."

Today's opinion follows a case in Munich in 2010 in which a person illegally offered music for download via an open Wi-Fi connection provided by a lighting business for its customers. Music publisher Sony brought a case of breach of copyright against the business owner as although internet service providers are covered in such cases, it is not clear the protection extends to companies offering open Wi-Fi as an adjunct to their main business. 

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar believes it does and considers that an obligation to make all such Wi-Fi networks secure as a means of protecting copyright would represent "a restriction on the freedom of expression and information."

He adds: "Any general obligation to make access to a Wi-Fi network secure ... could be a disadvantage for society as a whole and one that could outweigh the potential benefits for right holders."