An RIAA lawsuit against a woman whose Internet connection was stolen, then used to swap music, was dismissed last summer; the judge decided to throw out the case, since the woman herself wasn’t liable for the swapping, and ordered the RIAA to pay her $50,000 in legal fees. The RIAA, of course, has decided to appeal the decision, prompting Wired‘s Listening Post blog to
wonder about the further-reaching ramifications:
If the judge rules that we’re each legally responsible for all of the traffic that comes through our ISP account, open, unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots would become a serious legal liability, the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people who depend on their neighbors for Wi-Fi will be out of luck, while altruistic (or ignorant) folks who leave their wireless networks open could find themselves embroiled in an RIAA lawsuits even if they’ve never shared a single song in their lives.
We keep the flophouse wireless network locked, but we could see how this could turn into a very hairy problem for anyone involved with providing wireless access to people; take, for example, hotspots owned by businesses, or even municipalities. Obviously, the first steps for parties not interested in litigation involve port-blocking, or slapping always-lagging filtering programs on outgoing Web traffic, but pre-emptive strikes like those rarely work. Why? Because if people are interested enough to steal someone’s wireless access in order to steal music, they’ll stay one step ahead of any blocking programs people might implement. It’s that simple, but the RIAA, in its effort to pin the low-record-sales blame on only consumers, and not greater market forces, is showing, once again, that it’s too blinkered to realize that fact.
RIAA Fights Back, Threatens Open Wi-Fi [Listening Post]