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Germany's top criminal court ruled Wednesday that Internet users need to secure their private wireless connections by password to prevent unauthorized people from using their Web access to illegally download data.

Internet users can be fined up to euro100 ($126) if a third party takes advantage of their unprotected WLAN connection to illegally download music or other files, the Karlsruhe-based court said in its verdict.

"Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorized third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation," the court said.

But the court stopped short of holding the users responsible for the illegal content the third party downloads themselves.

The court also limited its decision, ruling that users could not be expected to constantly update their wireless connection's security — they are only required to protect their Internet access by setting up a password when they first install it.

The national consumer protection agency said the verdict was balanced.


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