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Operators of public WLAN hotspots enjoy a 'privilege' in accordance with to § 8 TMG

The Regional Court decided in two rulings that operators of public WLAN hotspots also have the so called 'privilege of the provider' according to § 8 TMG (German Telemedia Law). Telecommunication service providers on the basis of this standard are excluded from the liability provided that they transmit all information automatically.

 The defendants of the proceedings before the Regional Court were a hotel owner (in a ruling from June 10, 2014 - reference number 25b C 431/13, BeckRS 2014, 13884) and a landlord of holiday apartments (in a ruling from June 24, 2014 - reference number 25b C 924/13, BeckRS 2014, 13884). In both legal disputes a guest provided film protected by the copyright to download. The Regional Court declared the suits for damages and reimbursement of the costs of warning inadmissible. The Regional Court took a particular interest in two issues: Do operators of public WLAN hotspots have the so called ' privilege of the provider' according to § 8 TMG? The Regional Court Hamburg emphatically affirmed that view. In accordance with § 8 paragraph 1 page 1 Alt. 2 TMG the defendants provided access to Internet and their services included the transmission of data.

Can we talk in this case of the 'privilege of the provider' also of a 'Störerhaftung' (breach of duty of care)? 'Störer' is the one who deliberately commits an infringement. The operators of WLAN hotspots are 'Störer' if they do not fulfill reasonable supervisory duties. The court expressly left consideration on that issue open. Even if we cannot apply the 'privilege of the provider', we have to consider it when we talk about the 'Störerhaftung'.  The Regional Court Hamburg considered it proven that the defendant pointed out to the guests that it is forbidden to provide films protected by copyright to download. Another kind of protection, e.g. by closing of certain ports, is not acceptable, because the ports are necessary for legal purpose. The defendants' business models would be threatened if they offered their clients only a limited access to internet.