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Parents not liable if kids download illegally

German parents cannot be held responsible for their children illegally downloading and sharing music from the internet - as long as they have told their kids not to do it.

Parents not liable if kids download illegally
Photo: DPA

The Federal Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that because a teenager’s parents had told him about the illegality of sharing files on the internet, and had expressly made rules that he was not to do it, they could not be held liable if he broke their rules and did it anyway.

The couple from Cologne were fined €3,000 by a regional court because their son had been downloading and spreading music illegally.

But the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe overturned the ruling and the fine.

“In this day and age children have access to a computer, their usage of which cannot constantly be monitored,” Judge Joachim Bornkamm said.

Adults were not, the court said, obliged to monitor their children’s internet habits or to install restrictions on household computers. Only when they had already received a warning about illegal activity would this be necessary.

Parents should, he said, teach their offspring that sharing copyright-protected files on the internet is illegal but they should not “have to distrust them from the get-go and presume that they are breaking laws.”

Cologne’s regional court told the pair that they had to check their computers regularly for illegal file sharing programmes – a decision the couple’s lawyer called unrealistic.

Other lawyers welcomed the ruling. “It is the precedent case that we have been wanting for years,” said Munich-based Bernhard Knies, who went to Karlsruhe especially for the hearing.

“If this decision had been made earlier lots of parents could have been spared their own money,” Knies added.

DPA/The Local/jcw

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FRANKFURT

Emergency numbers fail in several German states

Callers to the emergency numbers 110 and 112 weren’t able to reach operators Thursday morning in several German states.

The 112 emergency number on an ambulance.
The 112 emergency number on an ambulance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The emergency number 110 for police and 112 for fire crews failed around the country early Thursday morning, with callers unable to reach emergency operators for urgent assistance between about 4:30 am and 5:40 am local time.

The Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid is looking into these outages, which were reported in states including Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and  Brandenburg, and in major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Cologne was further affected by cuts to electricity, drinking water, and regular telephone services. Lower Saxony also saw disruptions to the internal phone networks of police and hospitals.

Emergency services are not reporting any more disturbances and people should be able to once again reach 110 and 112 around the country as normal.

Investigators are looking into the problem, but haven’t yet established a cause or any consequences that may have happened due to the outage. Provider Deutsche Telekom says they have ruled out the possibility of an attack by hackers.

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