Bundestag abolishes Störerhaftung finally, allowing WLAN locks. In the end it was quite fast: the Bundestagsplenum today discussed the Third Telemedia Change Act [PDF] and decided it with the votes of the Grand Coalition. After the union and the SPD had begun several attempts and for four years argued about how to facilitate the operation of open WLANs by private persons and businessmen through more legal certainty, the interfering with the story is presupposed – the consent of the Federal Council. The price is for the first time network locks at the router level legally possible. Warnings from experts at a Bundestag hearing that the associated risk of overblocking legal contents should be minimized were not considered.
Now that the amendment bill is out, it looks like we all have cheered too early. Let’s hope that the European Court of Justice steps in and declares a violation of European law. If not, we will probably be stuck in the 90s for a few more years.
Imagine someone breaks into your house and does something illegal like smoking pot. You’re the one to blame because you did not secure your front door appropriately. This is how Störerhaftung works for internet access. And of course this concept is unique to Germany.
Have you asked yourself why you need to register to get onto WiFi in cafés or shopping-malls here? If illegal activity can be traced to the WiFi of a coffeeshop, the owner of that coffeeshop will get sued. Good for him if he can than dodge the suit by saying “this guy did it!”. Internet access providers are excluded from Störerhaftung.
This situation has led to a construct called Freifunk. You can install a firmware supplied by an organization with internet-provider-status on your router, turning said router into part of a mesh providing open HotSpots.
An amendment is scheduled for August 2016 to fix the absurdity of this practice. Let’s hope that Störerhaftung will end for good this fall. Then Routerzwang will lose some of its teeth and this hotspot-wasteland could finally bloom a little.
If you understand German or want to get better with it, there is this wonderful video explaining the problem in detail.