Latte Still Comes With Free Wi-Fi as Sony Loses EU Download Case

(Bloomberg) -- People looking for free Wi-Fi with their latte will be relieved by a ruling from the European Union’s top court that protects shop owners from having to pay for illegal downloads by their customers.

Thursday’s ruling by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg leaves little room for Sony Music Entertainment and other copyright owners to attack businesses that offer free Wi-Fi over customers’ browsing habits.

The case was brought by Tobias Mc Fadden, the owner of a German lighting and sound system business, who sued Sony Music after the company sought compensation because someone used his Wi-Fi hotspot to download songs illegally.

A ruling in favor of Sony could have made businesses reluctant to offer free internet access, but Mc Fadden, a member of the German Pirate political party, said that he was disappointed that the court said shop owners and other providers may have to use a Wi-Fi password.

“We don’t see it as a totally positive ruling because of the possibility the EU court gave today that we could be ordered to add a password protection,” the 42-year-old said by phone from Berlin Thursday. “That would go against the idea of free Wi-FI.”

Officials at Sony in the U.K. and Germany couldn’t be immediately reached to comment.

EU judges have aggressively set policies that alter how business is done on the internet. The same court two years ago sent shock-waves around the world when it granted citizens a so-called right to be forgotten, forcing Google to remove links to outdated or inaccurate personal information on request. And just last week it increased the ability of some copyright owners to block hyperlinks without permission.

Thursday’s case is C-484/14, Tobias McFadden v. Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH.