A German court has decided that parents can't be held responsible for the intellectual property misdeeds of their children, thereby practically reversing previous court decisions that had helped the music industry in their lawsuits against consumers. The district court of Frankfurt found that a father can't be held liable for copyright infringement just because the DSL line that the infringement originated from is under his name, heise online reports.

The case itself
is a little complicated. It started when a record company got an injunction against a German fireman for sharing 290 MP3 files through a P2P client. German record companies soon after started a separate lawsuit for another instance of file sharing, this time covering 547 MP3 files, that apparently happened a months later.

The fireman signed a C&D notice and probably agreed to pay a fine to drop that second lawsuit, but he fought back against the first instance, claiming that neither him nor his wife or any of his four children had access to his computer at the time in question. The record company argued that he nevertheless was liable because he owned the computer and DSL line and therefor had to make sure that the equipment wasn't used for infringing purposes.

German record companies had some success with this argument before, but the Frankfurt court wasn't buying it. The justices agreed that it was very likely that some member of the fireman's household committed the infringement in question, but they said that the record companies couldn't prove that the fireman willingly participated or failed to prevent the infringement, especially since he didn't have any reason to believe that anyone would use his computer to infringe.

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