Wireless AP Liability?

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  • Hello--

    If a library sets up a wireless AP, and if a patron uses that AP to download copyrighted materials, such as software, music, or video, and if an organization like the MPAA tracks that activity to the library's IP address, how much liability does the library have?

    I understand that if a home owner sets up a wireless AP and if a neighbor uses that access to pirate copyrighted material the home owner might have civil, if not legal, problems. Are libraries somehow shielded from this problem?

    Also, has there been any litigation on this issue that has led to a definitive issue?


    Mike Dargan
  • As far as I know there haven't been cases against libraries for copyright infringement, and definitely not for this particular problem.

    IANAL, but if the library is a public nonprofit instation, I would think 108 (f) provides some shield from liability, which is a section that addresses the use of unsupervised reproducing equipment, provided the library gives appropriate copyright notices. The connection might be tenuous, but the copying acts are similar.

    Probably more importantly, in this case libaries are Internet Service Providers, and so also may have protection from liability available from the DMCA's safe harbor provisions (section 512).

    I think that there are certain similarities between the ISP services offerered between a library and its patrons and a University and its students. Georgia Harper has a good explanation about liability in these cases that would appear to be applicable:


    The section under the "Internet Service Provider Liability Limitations Act" is of particular interest.

    I've come across a few references about libraries and wireless in other cases, which are also pretty interesting.


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