As community association attorneys, we are experienced in negotiating contracts with broadband service providers for our clients. These contracts allow the provider to enter a condominium’s common areas to install wiring and provide service to the individual units, as well as to undertake other activities related to these services. As a content creator, I value my intellectual property rights. As a computer geek who went to college in the time of Napster, I understand the inevitability of file sharing. I recently read this article discussing copyright protection activity by broadband service providers and thought, "Wow, I’m going to have a lot of work to do in a few years."
The article discusses the voluntary actions being taken by many large broadband service providers to discourage inappropriate file sharing and other copyright violations. It noted that many condominiums share internet service by a single central connection. This could mean that one flagrant violator with a habit of frequenting shady torrent sites could cause the internet for an entire condominium to be throttled back or even terminated.
What is an association’s responsibility in this situation? This may not be a violation of the condominium’s governing documents, unless slow internet is a modern-day nuisance. An association is not the police, and it is not obligated to enforce against someone who is violating the law if that violation is not prohibited by the governing documents.
Moreover, even if an association is obligated to enforce prohibitions against violating the law, how is an association supposed to track down the party who illegally downloaded episodes of Honey Boo Boo and Breaking Bad? How would the association know the difference between an illegal download and a legal download, if it only looks to bandwidth use? Association residents often resent perceived interference with private property rights. It’ll be even worse when an association board knocks on a door to discuss internet surfing habits.
While technology and the law change quickly, buildings are unfortunately saddled with the limitations present at the time they were constructed. We will keep an eye on the decisions made by the providers that service our clients to ensure that our clients, and their residents, don’t suffer from the poor surfing decisions of their neighbors.