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Endlich! Free Wi-Fi Could Finally Become a Thing in Germany

Reichtsag 2016Reichtsag 2016
People walk across the snow-covered lawn in front of the Reichstag on January 22, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup Getty Images

Free Wi-Fi could finally become a widespread reality in Germany after the country’s ruling coalition partners struck a deal over new telecom rules.

Currently, businesses providing free Wi-Fi hotspots in Germany are liable if, for example, someone connecting to their network uses it to illegally download a song or movie. This has led to a paucity of such hotspots because who wants to get sued for piracy?

However, Spiegel Online reported on Wednesday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and her Social Democrats (SPD) coalition partners have agreed to remove this liability in new telecom rules after arguing for years over the issue.

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Justice minister Heiko Maas concurred by tweeting that the way was now clear for more free Wi-Fi. The abolition of the liability rule was overdue, he added.

Spiegel Online said hotspot operators would not even be forced to add password protection to their connections under the new rules. With parliamentarians set to debate the change next week, it could be in force by fall.

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As it happens, the European Union’s top court is also currently examining the liability issue with a verdict soon to emerge in a case involving a German business owner who was sued by Sony Music over a song someone downloaded over his network.

The European Court of Justice’s top legal adviser said in March that hotspot owners should not be liable for users’ copyright infringements. If the court follows his opinion, the ruling would remove that liability across the EU.