In a UK case that highlights the mess the law is currently in when it comes to illegal downloads of copyright material, a pub owner has been hit with an £8,000 fine for the actions of a user on the pub's Wi-Fi hotspot.

The unnamed pub was, apparently, operating a Wi-Fi network provided by The Cloud, a firm specialising in public internet access in bars, coffee shops and other retail outlets.

Who's responsible?

According to ZDNet, the civil case brought by a copyright holder is "the first of its kind in the UK", although there are question marks over the pub's liability in the light of pending legislation.

The Digital Economy Bill announced last week appears to class such public internet access providers as 'public communications services' which would leave them exempt from prosecution for the actions of their users.

As the ZDNet report correctly states, "Wi-Fi hotspots... providing access to the internet to members of the public, free or paid, are public communications services."

And who dunnit?

Further still, unless specifically told to do so, there's no requirement for such access providers to keep records of who logged on and when, meaning it would be impossible to identify anyone responsible for illegal activity.

For now, it appears that the hefty fine stands, although we wouldn't be surprised to hear a lot more about the case. Stay tuned for updates.