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Germany moves to improve free Wi-Fi access

The German government says it wants to improve free, legal public access to Wi-Fi networks. A proposed amendment would free hotspot owners of liability for users' copyright violations.

The German government on Thursday proposed a revision of laws that currently make providers of public Wi-Fi networks responsible for copyright offenses committed by users, as the country seeks to bring access to such networks up to the standards of its European neighbors.

"

Germany is driving with the handbrake on

when it comes to the proliferation of free Wi-Fi compared with other countries," Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Bundestag or lower house of parliament.

Under the proposed legislation, business owners who offer free Wi-Fi access will no longer be held liable for customers' illegal downloads, as is currently the case. The law, if enacted, would not protect private citizens from prosecution for illegal activities conducted on their networks.

The new legislation would also require providers protect access to the network by using "recognized encryption procedures." In addition, access to the network would be given only to users who have agreed not to commit any copyright violations, which can be done by clicking a box on the start page, for example.

Registering by name would not be necessary in commercially provided Wi-Fi networks.

Germany lagging

Gabriel said he was sure that the revised legislation would "give a boost" to the number of public hotspots in restaurants and cafés and other buildings open to the public.

According to a study by the Association of the German Internet Industry (eco), Germany ranks seventh among the 10 countries surveyed in terms of public Wi-Fi access. South Korea takes first place, followed by Great Britain and Taiwan. Only Japan, Russia and China have less public Wi-Fi coverage than Germany, the study shows.

Earlier this year, the German government published its so-called Digital Agenda, in which it officially recognized the importance of better public Wi-Fi access and of increased investment in digitization to boost the country's international competitiveness.

tj/sms (Reuters, dpa)

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