Court: Parents Not Liable for Son's File Sharing

Dennis Faas's picture

A German court has found that a mother and father are not responsible for the extensive filesharing activity of their 13-year-old son. The finding could set a precedent for other such court cases around the world.

Back in 2007 record producers found that more than 1,100 of their copyright-protected songs were downloaded by a single IP (Internet Protocol) address.

Further investigation revealed that the downloading had been the work of a single 13-year-old boy. A search of his computer turned up several filesharing programs, including 'Morpheus' and 'Bearshare.' (Source:

Record Producers Press Parents for Damages

The record producers believed that, because the file downloading was the work of a minor, the parents could be held responsible for the illegal actions. The parents were willing to sign an agreement to stop the downloading, but they refused to pay any damages or legal fees.

According to reports, the parents say they clearly informed their son that downloading copyright-protected files without paying for them was illegal.

Court: Parents Met Legal Obligations

Germany's Federal Court of Justice has now ruled on the case, saying that the parents met their obligation to supervise their child and are not obliged to constantly monitor his Internet activity.

The court also found that the parents did not have an obligation to install special software designed to monitor the websites visited or software installed by their son. (Source:

"Parents are in principal not obliged to monitor the child's Internet usage, to check the child's computer or to (partially) obstruct the child's access to the Internet," the court said in its report.

This most recent finding overturns an earlier decision by a regional court in Cologne, in which the same parents were found liable for their son's Internet activity.

In that case, the court insisted the parents should have kept tabs on the kind of software used by their son.

"The Federal Court overturned the decision of the Appeal Court and dismissed it," the court report read. (Source:

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