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Over the last few years you’ve barely been able to open a paper or watch a magazine show without reading about the plight facing UK hostelries. Caught in a deadly pincer movement between the smoking ban and the chill wind of the recession, conditions have now apparently worsened to such an extent that they’re closing at a rate of about 80 a week.

Even so, many aren't ready to go without a fight. One way that establishments have been looking to attract customers is by offering free wireless broadband access with your tipple. But a seismic court case this week seems to have made this approach a no-go.

Piracy

In case you missed the story, WiFi network provider The Cloud disclosed that an unspecified pub owner has picked up an £8,000 fine after someone who used his service did so to nab a load of copyrighted material.

There’s lots to be amazed about here. But let’s start with the size of the fine, shall we? Just what were the patrons of the pub downloading in order to rack up a charge of that magnitude? Only if they’d managed to get hold of, I don’t know, unreleased Beatles tracks and sold them on to dealers can this be considered proportionate to the losses incurred by rights holders.

Perhaps they wanted to make an example of him? Of course they did. But it seems unfair beyond belief that the courts would choose to do this with a small business which is least able to shoulder the financial burden.

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