German court: Rat out your adult children’s illegal downloads, or pay the fine yourself

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Your little rascals are your responsibility, even after they’re not so little, a German court rules, and that applies in every sense of the word. In this digital age, there are quite a few senses, perhaps the most costly being our kiddos’ penchant for downloading computer games … illegally. Late last week, the European nation’s top court determined that parents must either spill the beans on their adult children’s wrongdoings when it comes to illegal downloads, or pay the price themselves.

The decision, which places obligation to the law above obligation to family, came after a particular case in which members of the same clan said that being related to one another meant that they wouldn’t have to testify against each other. Germany has now voiced its disagreement. Moving forward, parents are under a legal obligation to alert authorities if their kids have illegally downloaded content — be it movies, music, or games — over the family’s internet connection.

Copyright law is serious business, clearly.

Should parents neglect to hold up their end of the bargain, they’ll have to pay the price. Should the children be caught in their wrongdoing, it is the parents who will be asked to pay the fine, even if the child in question is legally an adult (over 18 years of age).

That said, state prosecutor Christian Rohnke assured nervous Germans that no one will have to “deliver their children at knifepoint.” To be clear, it isn’t automatically the case that parents will end up paying for their children’s mistakes — rather, should an illegal download be discovered in a household’s browsing history, the name on the internet contract will be asked to pay the fine for the crime if he or she does not want to reveal which member of the household is to blame.

So heads up, German parents. We know you love your kids, but are you willing to cough up for their downloads?