A German court has ruled that a user can't be criminally prosecuted for files that he unknowingly shared on a P2P network, according to heise.de. The case in question was about a user who had downloaded some "violent pornography." The file sharing client he used for these downloads automatically shared files saved in its incoming folder with other users of the network, but the defendant maintained that he hadn't been aware of this function.

A lower court found him guilty nonetheless, arguing that an active user of a P2P client should be able to understand how it works, including the fact that it might share all downloaded data. The District Court of Oldenburg however disagreed, ruling that the name of the "incoming" folder suggested that these files weren't also going out to other users.

As interesting as it is to see judges argue about the semantics of shared folders, the decision won't likely have a big impact on other file sharing lawsuits in Germany. For starters, German law doesn't have the same concept of precedence as US common law.

Also, most file sharing lawsuits in Germany are based on civil cases against defendants ever since the country changed its copyright laws last year. The only reason this one became a criminal matter is that German laws prohibit the distribution of violent pornography.

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