Copyright warning issued for public Wi-Fi network operators

Comms Alliance probes copyright issues in public Wi-Fi paper

The Communications Alliance has released a guide for public Wi-Fi network operators which warns that operators could be subject to litigation by copyright holders if there is evidence network users have illegally downloaded material. The guide also highlights operators’ responsibilities to keep users secure.

The guide, entitled Public Wi-Fi Networks Industry Information Paper, includes sections covering downloading of copyright material.

“Digital rights owners have been looking to change the behaviour of end users who infringe copyright via online activities including peer-to-peer file sharing,” read the guide documents.

“Not withstanding the recent judgment by the High Court of Australia in the case, Roadshow Films Pty Ltd and Others versus iiNet Ltd, pressure on users of fixed networks in this regard might continue and could be extended to mobile and/or Wi-Fi networks in future.”

According to the guide, if a public Wi-Fi user is identified as accessing prohibited content via a Wi-Fi network then the party with the legal responsibility for identifying the user has not been tested.

“Similarly, the nature of the interaction between Wi-Fi network operators and service providers with law enforcement agencies [LEAs] has not been tested. This is in contrast to standing arrangements that exist between LEAs and both licensed carriers and content service providers [CSPs],” read the documents.

According to the paper, legal responsibility has not been tested because while law enforcement interception can be done on a public Wi-Fi network, the associated processes are not standardised in the way they are for tracing phone numbers in a licensed carrier network.

In addition, the Alliance sets out the challenges of enforcement on a public Wi-Fi network which include:

Dynamic address allocation, such as a different internet protocol (IP) address allocated per session, which can make tracking usage by IP address difficult.

The absence of user data on a public Wi-Fi network as, according to the report, there is usually no user data retained on public Wi-Fi networks, unlike in licensed carrier networks.

Permitting anonymous, temporary use, which can be difficult to trace after the event.

“There are examples of Wi-Fi network operators assisting LEAs resulting in the relevant LEA matching different information sources to identify a suspect e.g. the use of an IP address combined with closed circuit television [CCTV] footage at a related site,” read the documents.

Turning to security, the Alliance recommends that operators use Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol, which is used for encryption to secure wireless links.

“WPA2 is the de facto standard for securing Wi-Fi networks, however in order to allow easy connection, most public Wi-Fi networks operate unsecured, instead relying on the end user or an application to secure any sensitive data such as through the use of a virtual private network [VPN] or SSL connection,” read report documents.

The report recommends operators use methods to limit network access abuse such as limiting session duration and monitoring media access control (MAC) address logging.

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John Ballment


I'm sorry but I thought the courts through out the iiNet vs AFACT, so why are any other public network an issue.

I simply don't understand this mentality; so if I burn a copy of a DVD and send via Australia Post without a return address, then Australia Post is the liable of the content of the mail - that's just ludicrous.

To me it just lawyers trying to make a quick buck by convincing companies that they can get away with this sort of crap.



Communications Alliance's next guide will warn Telstra it may be liable for any crimes arranged over the phone in a public telephone box.



Possibly, VB, but perhaps that may be unnecessary, since Telstra seems to largely view CA as an extension of the empire anyway!

John Taylor


An IP address cannot necessary point the finger at the offending person and to triangulate with CCTV footage, what kind of technology are they using for spying, as for MAC address your computer must have holes in it to expose your MAC address unless they have technology or hacking tools themselves to come in your computer at will. Now thats scarey. But overall people will get tech savvy in the end, and a final note they have to troll data as well and that means privacy laws dont apply to these people. So who watches them ????.



Just don't go the way we've gone here in New Zealand under our 3strikes legislation (Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011), which makes most providers of public wifi liable for all p2p copyright infringement by users.

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