In a recent case that sets a fascinating precedent, a German Federal Court awarded damages to someone for being deprived of the Internet. According to BoingBoing, the plaintiff sued, “on the grounds that being deprived of the Internet resulted in economic harm, and the court agreed.” The plaintiff was deprived Internet access for approximately 3 months back in 2008-2009. So, he sued the telecommunications company for the cost of transferring to a new provider and for “compensation of €50 (£42) per day for the period his was unable to use his DSL, fax over IP and VoIP services.” The court awarded compensation for the loss of internet connection.
The German court reasoned that “the plaintiff [wa]s entitled to compensation for the lost DSL line because the Internet has been a crucial part of people’s economic living standards for a while now.” The Internet replaces important media “such as encyclopedias, magazines or TV,” provides entertainment, “enables . . . global exchange[s],” and “is increasingly used for . . . legal transactions and the fulfillment of public service obligations.” Further, from BoingBoing:
“Almost all subjects are covered on the Internet, from light entertainment to highly scientific topics, the court said.”
This ruling represents the first time that a court has held that a functional internet connection is as fundamental of a commodity as a working telephone line. It’ll be interesting to see whether, in the future, other countries follow the same logic, and decide that the Internet is crucial to daily life.