After nearly 6 years, it looks like Germany's long national nightmare is finally over following the announcement last week of an agreement to relax the country's restrictions on WiFi use.
The combination of court rulings and the German Störerhaftung law have created an environment where WiFi providers are legally liable for any illegal activity conducted by users. For example, if a user were to download music or a movie on a coffee shop hotspot, the owner ran the risk of being sued for piracy. This made free WiFi a rare commodity, as many restaurants, coffee shops, and bars shied away from offering it and running the risk of lawsuits.
Under the new agreement, which was brokered in the governing coalition between the CDU and SPD, private and commercial providers will no longer be held responsible for their users' online activity, hopefully opening a pathway to a blossoming of new free WiFi hotspots across Germany.
If all goes according to plan, the new agreement should be put into affect officially this fall. It will be part of a larger set of laws governing internet provision and use in Germany.
Importantly, the new agreement will not only cover commercial providers, but also private WiFi. This means that if someone uses your network illegally to download songs or videos, you will not be held legally liable. This will definitely relieve a lot of stress across Germany.