MANHATTAN (CN) - Digital privacy advocates have come to the aid of a New Yorker who faces liability because his roommate used their Internet connection to download pirated pornography.
Liberty Media Holdings filed suit in 2012 against Cary Tabora and Schuyler Whetstone. The company had tried suing the pair a year earlier over the alleged illegal download of "Corbin Fisher's Down on the Farm."
That 2011 complaint said the men's distribution of the film on BitTorrent spread the film to at least 840 online users.
But the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit focused on civil liberties in the digital age, says Tabora should not face negligence claims because of Whetstone's alleged download activities.
"LMH's theory of liability cannot withstand even passing scrutiny," the group said in an amicus brief last week. "No court has ever found, or could ever find, that anyone has violated copyright law simply because another user of his or her Internet connection did so."
There is furthermore absolutely no precedent to hold someone liable because another person who used his Internet connection violated copyright law, according to the brief.
EFF says setting such a precedent would dangerous.
In the first part of this year 77.1 percent of public wireless connections were provided at no cost. The providers include half the nation's busiest airports, including Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Phoenix and Houston, along with numerous municipalities, coffee houses, schools, Laundromats and 11,500 McDonald's restaurants.
"The negligence standard LMH proposes would put all of this at risk," EFF states.
Holding wireless providers liable for copyright violations would deter hotspot hosting and hurt the economy, according the group
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson "called his city's Wi-Fi network 'a beneficial economic development tool' that can 'enhance tourism in our great city,'" the brief notes.
EFF says the Southern District of New York should dismiss Liberty Media's negligence claim because "creating a legal duty to prevent others from infringing copyright using one's Internet connection would impede law-abiding citizens' access to the Internet, a national and local priority."
It is also does not hold up under federal copyright law, which does "not recognize a special relationship between a provider of Internet service and a user of that service," according to the brief. This arrangement "is, rather, an ordinary business relationship."
Ray Beckerman in Forest Hills, N.Y., authored the brief for EFF.