More than eight years ago, German citizen Michael Strotzer
was the subscriber of an Internet connection from where an
audiobook was made available on a peer-to-peer network.
The copyright holder, Germany company Bastei Lbbe AG, was not
pleased and demanded that he stop the infringing activity.
This later escalated to a full-blown lawsuit in which the
publisher demanded damages. Strotzer, however, denied that he had
personally shared the work. While his network was secure, he noted
that his parents, who lived at the same address, had access to his
The defendant, however, did not provide any further details as
to where and when his parents used his connection.
The court initially dismissed the action against Strotzer on the
grounds that the copyright infringement could not be directly
attributed to him, since his parents could also have shared the
In response, Bastei Lbbe filed an appeal with the Regional Court
of First Instance in Munich. Here it eventually hit a
Strotzer denied that he shared the pirated content. At the same
time, German law protects the fundamental right to protection of
family life, which means that he didnt have to provide detailed
information on other family members.
Faced with this dilemma, the Munich court referred the case to
the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for guidance,
which came in today.
Siding in large part with an
earlier opinion from EU Advocate General Szpunar, the CJEU
ruled that the right to protection of family life doesnt shield
Internet subscribers from liability.
The Court considers that a fair balance must be struck between
the various fundamental rights, namely the right to an effective
remedy and the right to intellectual property, on the one hand, and
the right to respect for private and family life, on the other.
There is no such fair balance where almost absolute protection
is guaranteed for the family members of the owner of an internet
connection, through which copyright infringements were committed by
means of file-sharing, the CJEU adds.
The CJEU notes that if a defendant cant be required to provide
evidence on which member of the household carried out the
infringement, the fundamental rights of copyright holders are at