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Liability for family members and flat-mates

Downloads by friends and children

"My 17-year old daughter offered music on a sharing plattform by using my computer at home. Now I was identified as the owner of the Internet connection over my IP address. I was told to make a "declaration to cease and desist" and pay a high amount of money. My daughter installed and used the software without my knowledge, I am not so good with computers and therefore didn't notice it. Do I have to pay?"

Supervision of Internet use is not necessary without a reason

A similar case was decided by court. The owner of the Internet connection is not obliged to watch over the Internet use of his children and flat-mates as long as there are no indications for illegal use. He is not automatically liable for all kinds of infringements which are committed via his connection.

The fact that the owner provided the "tool" for the copyright infringement committed by others (via a file-sharing software), is not sufficient for a joint liability according to Austrian law.

According to court decisions, liability is just given if the owner consciously supports the copyright violations - this would include that he knows about the infringements or at least did not act on indications. As long as the owner of a computer / Internet connection does not have any indication for illegal activities, he is not obliged to constantly check what co-users are doing.

Don't ignore letters from attorneys

As soon as the owner receives a letter of formal notice from the copyright holder or his attorney, he has to investigate the allegation, check what is happening in his network and remove the file-sharing software from his computer immediately.

To what extend do parents need to be familiar with file-sharing platforms? Is it ok for parents to defend themselves by stating that they didn't know about the illegal sharing platform used by their daughter?

Courts don't assume that parents know how Internet file-sharing platforms work and that the upload of files is illegal. This may change in a few years when the knowledge about these things will be more common.

No liability under the age of 14

The question remains if children and teenagers are liable for the copyright violations themselves. Under the age of 14 nobody can be held liable for any kind of infringement. From the 14th birthday on, they are basically liable for their own unlawful conduct.

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