24 Comments

Summary:

I just caught this story from a few days ago: a 39-year old Briton was arrested for using someone’s broadband over a WiFi connection without permission. Apparently in the U.K. you have the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act which make this practice illegal. I […]

Wifi_logoI just caught this story from a few days ago: a 39-year old Briton was arrested for using someone’s broadband over a WiFi connection without permission. Apparently in the U.K. you have the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act which make this practice illegal. I honestly don’t know if we have a similar law here in the U.S. at either the national, state or local level in my area. I’m very curious if any jkOnTheRun readers are aware of laws in their area that make it illegal to use someone’s WiFi. If so, drop a comment with your general location and understanding of the law.

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

Related stories

  1. Hi jk,it’s exactly the samething in french. It’s forbiden to usea wifi connection without his autorisation. Sorry for my english you know french are not so good in other language and my Q1 hate to write in engliqh. lol of course.
    Tikismoke

    Share
  2. This was recent. The story of a man who got busted in Michigan for parking his car outside a coffee shop and leeching its wifi every morning.
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070522-michigan-man-arrested-for-using-cafes-free-wifi-from-his-car.html

    Share
  3. Here’s a local story about someone arrested for using the library’s WiFi service after the library was closed:

    http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/8667098p-8559268c.html

    Share
  4. What bothers me the most about the Michigan arrest is that the store owner never made a complaint or even knew that this was illegal – the local police chief noticed the man sitting there in his car every day and asked what he was doing, and then went to find out if there was a law he could nail the guy with. The direct quote is: “I had a feeling a law was being broken, but I didn’t know exactly what.” And rather than just let the guy know that he was breaking a law even the police didn’t know about, he decided to charge the guy and punish him for it.

    Share
  5. In the US its called “Theft of Services” and the consumer doesn’t have to be the one pressing the charges, the up stream ISP can do it (like Comcast).

    Share
  6. I know the law is the law and that people should not steal but….In todays world to leave a wi-fi network open is negligent. Unless you want people to piggy-back onto your system you just dont leave it open.

    Share
  7. My point was that neither the store owner, the offender, or even the officer knew that a law was being broken. $400 and 40 hours seems excessive and should worry anyone who has ever “borrowed” an open wireless network.

    This was a felony crime with a max punishment of five years inprisonment and a $5000 fine. $70/mo for unlimited data through AT&T doesn’t sound so bad if this is the alternative.

    Share
  8. Some interesting and informative commentary here. Based on what I’ve read, let me pose another similar situation for discussion and opinion. When I sit in the Starbucks at the King of Prussia mall, the Apple store is two stores down. I can pull in their WiFi even though I’m not in their store; it’s < 40' away. Am I breaking the law? Is it even worse if I plug in my UMPC to the readily available and out-in-the-open electrical outlet next to my table in the Starbucks? Am I now breaking two laws?

    Share
  9. In purely technical terms? I would guess that the answer is “yes” on the wireless, and “good question” on the electricity. If you’re in the Starbucks then you are considered a customer and then I guess it would depend on whether or not they consider electricity to be a service they offer to their customers. I’ve had airport restaurants make me unplug my laptop when I tried charging up while I ate, so I guess it’s possible that it could be considered theft of services if it wasn’t expressly allowed.

    If attaching to any available open network is illegal, then why does virtually every OS and wireless NIC driver allow it? If I turn that option on and my computer attaches to an available network, am I breaking the law even if I’m not actively accessing the network? The first thing your PC is going to do is try to get an IP address (assuming you don’t use a static IP), so you will always generate at least a small amount of traffic on any network you connect to. If this is illegal, then I have broken the law dozens or even hundreds of times a day in some cases. And in that case, all it takes is one cop who doesn’t like the jacket I’m wearing or the way I lace my sneakers to notice the PC in my hand and decide to investigate and then enforce an outdated law he doesn’t even completely understand.

    Share
  10. “And in that case, all it takes is one cop who doesn’t like the jacket I’m wearing or the way I lace my sneakers to notice the PC in my hand and decide to investigate and then enforce an outdated law he doesn’t even completely understand.”

    Yeah my computer picks up open networks but I don’t connect to them. If a cop doesn’t like what you’re wearing then I guess you shouldn’t break the law. You are taking something someone else paid for. Is it smart to leave your network open….not really, but people in my town still leave their keys in their car or their house unlocked,not smart either and it still doesn’t give anyone the right to drive their car or go into their house.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post