German court rules that parent is responsible for child's web activity

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Landmark decision in online culpability.

A court in Germany has ruled that parents can be legally responsible for the unlawful behaviour of their children when using a home internet connection.

According to the Pinsent & Masons blog, the court ruled that a woman in Germany had a duty to monitor the use to which her internet connection was put.

She said that she forbade her children from using the home computer and internet connection to engage in copyright-infringing behaviour. However, around 1,000 songs were made available from that connection and she was sued by record labels. The woman argued that she did not make the songs available and that it was due to the actions of one or more of her five children.

The court said that the woman must be liable for the activity.

"Which children have used the port, she did not say. In a response formulated by lawyers ... the 'older children' are mentioned. It remains unclear whether the middle child is counted among the users or not," the ruling stated.

"Given this overall lack of speech it must be the responsibility of the defendant for the alleged violations."

During the case it was claimed that the woman had "constantly reminded" her children not to engage in illegal file sharing.

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