A pub owner in UK has been fined £8000 by the government when one of the pub’s customers was caught downloading copyrighted digital content from the pub’s Wi-Fi hotspot.
The pub, which is client of The Cloud Network, provides free Wi-Fi internet to its customers. Graham Cove, managing director of the hotspot provider The Cloud, told ZDNet UK that the case was first of its kind. He however, refused to give the name of the pub that was fined.
The hefty fine imposed on the landlord comes as a surprise to many as according to the Digital Economy Bill, which came into effect last week, all Wi-Fi hotspot were declared “public communications services”. It means that the user of the Wi-Fi hotspot is held responsible for the misuse of the connection, not the service provider.
According to the Digital Economy Bill, the public connection provider is required to maintain records, going back 12 months, of the communication taken place o the network.
The record includes user id, time and date of access and websites visited. However, the user information cannot be obtained with out permission under the Data Protection Laws.
Legal experts believe that the bill is shrouded with grey areas and loopholes and they assert that public communications service providers are not mandated to keep the record of the online activity unless asked by the government.
This is wrong, very wrong. The pub owner has no control on who downloads what and this could set a very bad precedence for those who manage WiFi hotspots, not only because it will increase the burden associated with recording and logging access but because it opens a huge pandora box.