Another Man Arrested For Using Free Cafe WiFi

from the but-why? dept

Will it never end? Just months after a guy was arrested in Alaska for using free library WiFi from outside the library, Broadband Reports points us to a man in Michigan getting arrested for using free cafe WiFi from outside the cafe. The story gets more bizarre the further into you read. The police chief saw the guy, and went over to talk to him, thinking it must be wrong, but not knowing of any law that said so. Following that, he went searching for a law, and found an old law about unauthorized access -- which is designed to make hacking illegal. Of course, that's not what the guy was doing, and you could make a pretty compelling argument that the access wasn't unauthorized. After all, the cafe was offering it for free and there was no loss to the cafe for having this guy use it as well. In fact, the cafe owner didn't even know it was illegal either. Once again, this is based on a bunch of people being extremely confused about how open WiFi works. If the WiFi is open, it should not be a crime to use it. Do the police go around arresting people who use the light coming out of a store window to read something? Also, does this mean that police can now arrest you just for using a laptop in your car? As someone who has used a laptop with an EVDO card in parking lots more than a few times, are the police going to accuse me of "stealing" WiFi? The whole situation is pointless. Nothing is being "stolen." Nothing is even being accessed in an unauthorized manner. Even professional ethicists have chimed in to say that there's nothing wrong with WiFi piggybacking. So why was Sam Peterson potentially facing five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Why WiFi?, May 23rd, 2007 @ 12:37am

    Because people, in general are stupid

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    uhm.., May 23rd, 2007 @ 12:40am

    Sounds like it's about time for Barney to retire from the Mayberry P.D.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    auz, May 23rd, 2007 @ 12:59am

    wireless piggybacking in michigan

    Perhaps it's time to consider how badly other 'new' laws can be interpreted by our 'protectors' and for what unjust excuses our nominal freedoms can be turfed in the interests of THE national tyranny!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Ted Wood, May 23rd, 2007 @ 1:34am

    sent the officer a message

    I found the email for the officer responsible for the arrest of Sam Peterson and asked him why he took that course of action. Did he give Mr. Peterson a chance to stop using the WiFi network, if indeed it was not legal? A better course of action would be to require the coffee shop to secure their network. That would have nipped the problem in the butt right there. But no, he issued a warrant for Mr. Peterson's arrest, turning the mans life upside down.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    ipanema, May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:15am

    Educate these people before they turn in many innocent ones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    XmasB, May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:23am

    Re:

    True, true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:33am

    I wait for the day...

    I wait for the day we hear of somebody sitting on a bench in a national forest, using an EVDO card - to have a park ranger come up and accuse them of stealing a WiFi signal which does not exist for 30 miles...

    and before people go spouting crap about the US being a tyranny - this is just some dumbass, overzealous cop who can't accept being wrong...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:44am

    >>and before people go spouting crap about the US being a tyranny
    That's why they call it "Land of the free" right?

    But what needs to happen before you also start calling it a tyranny? :-)

    Side note; this trend of what I call overactive goverments (I'd group it with the fluid ban for airplanes in Europe and overactive copyright protection but I'm sure this is a matter of opinion) is happening all over the world, but the US is in a top position from what I hear in the news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:48am

    Re: I wait for the day...

    and before people go spouting crap about the US being a tyranny - this is just some dumbass, overzealous cop who can't accept being wrong...


    And that's the beauty of the US; anyone can aspire to be president.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Douglas, May 23rd, 2007 @ 2:49am

    NO Coward this is just another example of the police state we are being forced to live under. Look at the Duke rape case and that old couple in FL that were beaten up by two cops because they refused to allow the cops into there home without a warrent. Look around you the cops and law "enforce"-ment are out of control of the people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    mark, May 23rd, 2007 @ 3:20am

    This is what happens when someone besides the FCC or someone equally familiar with radio spectrum usage is allowed to "enforce" laws governing radio. No local laws should be in place covering radio spectrum usage, and nobody but the proper federal agency should be playing federal radio cop. The Duke rape case had nothing to do with the police, but a bonehead DA wanting to make political points with someone. And before you start lumping all police into the same group as the few screwups playing cop in order to label them all the same, you should lump yourself into the same group as the few screwups that can't drive and talk on a cellphone or can't walk and chew gum at the same time, call yourselves all dumasses and see how it fits. "The Police" aren't out of control, the legal system is. Thank you, move along, nothing to see here...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    mark, May 23rd, 2007 @ 3:23am

    Re: sent the officer a message

    Police don't issue warrants, judges do. And only if some badly written law is being violated. Blame whoever wrote the law, and/or the judge that issued the warrant. If there was one. Likely the guy was cited and released based on probable cause.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 3:41am

    Spin, spin, spin

    I think we first need to understand the motivations of the police chief in this case. The chief said "I had a feeling a law was being broken." Now open WiFi is commonly hated in the law enforcement community because it engenders freedom through the facilitation of anonymous communication. And let's face it, people who love freedom don't generally make putting people in jail, i.e. law enforcement, their first career choice. So the chief saw something that offended his personal "feelings" and then proceeded to make a criminal case out of it. And why not? The chief has nothing to loose even if the charges are eventually proved bogus.

    Then we have reporter Patrick Center of television station WOOD in Grand Rapids, Michigan acting as a cheerleader and spinning the story by stating things like "using someone else's WiFi without their permission - isn't legal" without mentioning that that "without permission" isn't the case with open WiFi as in this case. Center then goes on to describe how New York's Westchester County has supposedly outlawed unsecured commercial wireless networks while omitting to even mention that the requirement does not apply to commercial open WiFi public Internet access hotspots. Who knows what Patrick Center's motivation is but it certainly isn't objective reporting. If you would like to comment to TV station WOOD's general manager about the way reporter Patrick Center is spinning this story you can send e-mail to generalmanager@woodtv.com.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 3:51am

    Re: Re: sent the officer a message

    Police don't issue warrants, judges do.
    Yeah, especially when cops provide false information to get those warrants. Such as claiming that the access was unauthorized when it wasn't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    TechDirtCommenter, May 23rd, 2007 @ 4:17am

    It WAS authorized

    He opened up his connections, he clicked on the connection from the CAFE, his computer asked for a connection and the cafe owner's Wifi said, OK, here you go.

    SO IT WAS AUTHORIZED.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Nortin, May 23rd, 2007 @ 4:45am

    Don't Diss Cops

    ...as some have posters have indicated here, this was mostly a simple case of police harassment. Happens frequently.

    The cop was "suspicious" of the guy in the car for whatever reason .... maybe he thought the guy was planning a robbery or stalking somebody.

    The cop 'talked' to the guy -- and I suspect the guy was insufficiently 'respectful' or 'cooperative' with the cop's sudden interrogation. The "dissed" cop then decided to get even with guy... but there was nothing criminal to charge him with -- not even a burned-out license plate light.

    But with thousands of criminal laws on the Michigan books... and unlimited police/prosecutor creativity -- any innocent citizen can be charged with 'something'. The cop eagerly went back to the office, spent hours of 'legal research' hunting for any crime -- and easily convinced some local rubber-stamp judge to issue an warrant for this dangerous criminal

    The arrest, public mug shots, court procedures, lawyers fees,
    missed work days, etc. are plenty of punishment for most innocent citizens -- they plea bargain just to get it over with.

    Justice never enters the process. The specific charge regarding computers was a very insignificant detail to what actually was happening in this incident IMO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Douglas, May 23rd, 2007 @ 4:47am

    Re:

    Kiss my ass Mark, You suck up brown nose-er. You move along, the system is out of control; cops and judges; prosecutors all. Look up how much money has been paid to people for their rights being violated by cops. I banged them so far for over $4,000,000 since graduating law school 2002 and got another one going now that will double it. And the cops are going to jail in this one. You couldn’t survive a week without the social system that wipes your butt and feeds you; you blind punk!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    urdumb, May 23rd, 2007 @ 4:59am

    You're all idiots

    Yeah, we should do away with all law and its enforcement and just have a free for all. Fastest gun wins.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Eric, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:04am

    Was there theft?

    Without agreeing or disagreeing with some of the arguments on open Wifi hotspots usage, I think the comparison with using a light to read is bad.

    A better comparison would be if I walk to someone's house somewhere, plug my power adapter in an outside plug and charge my laptop battery.

    Or I use their tap to fill up my car's radiator level.

    Both are accessible without trespassing and there is no sign indicating that no one should do it.

    Am I doing something illegal?

    Any thoughts on this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Todd, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:19am

    Re: Was there theft?

    ...Both are accessible without trespassing and there is no sign indicating that no one should do it.

    What is your definition of trespassing if it is not walking on their property to plug in your power adapter and I would like to see you get to my radiator without breaking into my car.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:21am

    Re: Was there theft?

    If the home owner was offering free charging and water inside the house, then maybe it would be the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    niftyswell, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:22am

    lousy comparison

    A) is there a sign saying free water or electricity on the home just like there is on the door of the cafe saying "free wi-fi"
    B) is the internet metered? Probably not if it is in the US, so taking the 'free wi-fi' is not costing extra whereas the water or electricity is.
    C) is there 'a make my day law' in the state or municipality where you are doing this allowing the homeowner to put a cap in your ass legally for being an idiot and stepping foot on someone else's property and taking something not offered for free?

    Each of these are questions to ask when making this lousy comparison. I have a spigot, electricity, and law daring you to prove otherwise where I live. I also have an open internet port where I have no issue with you logging on. So you decide which of these you want from me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:29am

    Re: sent the officer a message

    The normal expression is "nipped it in the bud". However, I will admit that yours provides a MUCH more entertaining mental picture!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:30am

    Re: Was there theft?

    So what was the difference between this man being inside the cafe (maybe 5 feet away) and standing outside? There was a clear sign saying "Free WIFI Access"... It didn't make any allusions to distance or surroundings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    buttafuoco, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:31am

    Incorrect

    That would be using a resource that the homemowner will have to pay additional money for...which is theft by definition. The light analogy is actually a pretty good one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    cloksin, May 23rd, 2007 @ 5:40am

    First of all, comparing using someone's electricity or water to using their wifi is not even in the same ballpark. If someone has an open wifi network, they are paying the same fee to their provider regardless of how many different users hop on. If you use someone's electricity or water, they have to pay for your usage, so therefore you are stealing from them.
    Second, if the cafe is offering free wifi there are a few things to consider here. Does the cafe stipulate that it is only offered for "customers"? If so, then if you're in your car using it and haven't purchased anything from the cafe then it could be considered a crime.
    This, however, brings up a different point. If the cafe does not stipulate you must be a customer, and still offers the wifi, then the cafe should have to stipulate a usable radius before a crime could be committed. If the cafe says that you can use my wifi as long as you can pick up the signal, then no matter how far away you are from the cafe you should be able to use it if you can pick it up. However, if they make a claim along the lines of you must be within our store, or within 10 feet of the store, then if you are outside of that radius you can expect to get in trouble.
    I'm still flabergasted though that the local gestapo is so concerned about someone stealing something from a store that is giving that same thing away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Smartguy, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:01am

    If the suspect was using the signal from outside the building, then no real access occured. How can a person be guilty of unauthorized access when using the public airwaves? The cafe should be required to keep their signal INSIDE the building or whatever 'leaks' out is litter and the guy should be commended not arrested for cleaning it up.
    Even police band radios are free for the public to recieve.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    pcjunkie, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:07am

    Not a good comparison

    "A better comparison would be if I walk to someone's house somewhere, plug my power adapter in an outside plug and charge my laptop battery.
    Or I use their tap to fill up my car's radiator level.
    Both are accessible without trespassing and there is no sign indicating that no one should do it."

    When you plug into someone's power or take water, you are stealing something. Those things cost people money you goof! On the other hand, using a business' open Wifi should not cost them any extra money or problems unless you are doing something crazy like trying to crash their network.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Dan, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:07am

    Re: Was there theft?

    "A better comparison would be if I walk to someone's house somewhere, plug my power adapter in an outside plug and charge my laptop battery.

    Or I use their tap to fill up my car's radiator level."

    "Am I doing something illegal?"

    Yes. You are taking my electricity or water, which I have to pay for, without my permission. Both of those utilities cost me money.

    In the case being discussed, the cafe is giving away the WiFi service. Your analogy is flawed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    George Glass, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:10am

    I think its similar to parking

    I think that what people are trying to say is that this guy is using someone else's bandwidth for free. So even though the shop pays one price for a certain amount of bandwidth, he is reducing the amount of bandwidth available to actual customers. I think this is similar to him using up a parking space in their parking lot. Although there were likely plenty of places to park, he made it so there was one less than normal, without any benefit to the shop. So some may say he was "stealing" parking. The problem is the fine for "stealing" parking would never be any where close to $10,000 or involve any prison time. This should be a $20 ticket or something.

    I live near where this happened and watched it on the news. They ended the story by saying that the law says that there must be malicious intent for it to be illegal. So there is no way that someone checking their email for free should be prosecuted. I think this was a false arrest made only to make a point, and I hope that he can get a nice settlement out of it and that heads roll for a really bad decision.

    Does anyone else agree that police should look for ways to NOT harass people, instead of looking for a law that doesn't exist?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Overcast, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:11am

    Because Politicians and Cops love power, and using it against others.

    I suspect even if the cafe owner was perfectly ok with it, they'll still try to prosecute him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    pcjunkie, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:13am

    I agree

    Cops that go looking for an excuse to mess with people make me sick. They should go look for some real criminals doing murder, rape, drug dealing, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    BigEd, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:17am

    Re:

    Damn, Barney got promoted to Police Chief. In what episode did this happen. I was sure Otus was an absolute shoe-in for the job and Aunt Bea as a close runner up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:24am

    Somebody really needs to start educating the cops on these matters. This is absolutely ridiculous. It's one thing to be tapping into somebody's home network, but to use a public network at a coffee shop, which is ADVERTISED as free, there is just no way that can be ruled as unauthorized access, even if the person is sitting outside in a car. If anything, the guy should be forced to go buy a cup of coffee or something, since the WiFi is paid for through the establishment's proceeds. The only way he would be actually breaking a law is if he hacked into another user's computer on that network. Just using the internet is not breaking any law at all. It's time to bring law enforcement into the 21st century.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Boz, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:32am

    Why so paranoid?

    This sounds like a case of a cop who got a little bit of training, didn't have enough true knowledge, then went out to try to practice what he had picked up in training.

    My guess is he's new or a moron, and yes, police have both types.

    The rampant paranoia on here is just silly though. The vast majority of municipal police are not power hungry freedom haters looking for innocents to abuse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    ben, May 23rd, 2007 @ 7:01am

    there ya go!

    That's what happens when you take Jesus out of WiFi

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Alan, May 23rd, 2007 @ 7:10am

    Re: Not a good comparison

    Well, in fact, it could end up costing that business more money, if, for example, you are using up part of their bandwidth, and because of that, you are slowing down the normal operation of that company, then, yes, you are costing them money...now thats stealing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 7:29am

    I feel bad for this guy, I've done the same thing on quite a few different occaisions. The decision to secure or leave your network open should be up to the owner of the network period. If you leave your network open and unsecured you should expect that other people will use it from time to time. I'd like to know what benefit requiring all wifi networks to be secure will garner?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Buzz, May 23rd, 2007 @ 7:37am

    OMG

    It's the middle ages all over again! People aren't committing insane crimes. They aren't firing guns, robbing banks, or even perusing through a filing cabinet. They are borrowing WiFi! I especially love the light analogy. Why don't cops arrest people for using a nearby store's light to read a pamphlet?

    The only time I can see a WiFi-stealing case is when someone hops onto a WiFi network and starts downloading massive files and chokes the bandwidth. Even then, WiFi providers can install traffic-control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Smartguy, May 23rd, 2007 @ 7:40am

    Like I said...keep your bandwith INSIDE your building...if you let your signal leak out to the street then it is no longer yours.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Fred Flint, May 23rd, 2007 @ 7:41am

    Arrest the Cafe Owner

    You could make an argument that people who don’t protect their WiFi connections are aiding and abetting pedophiles and other criminals by hiding their IP addresses, obstructing the police and obstructing justice.

    The next time some guy in a car with a laptop gets rousted by the cops, he ought to insist the owner of the wireless router is arrested.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    confused?, May 23rd, 2007 @ 8:20am

    Michigan law is stupid

    I don't see how its illegal as I last understood if you leave your wifi open, then its free to use to the public. I live in Michigan and I hate all the stupid legal stuff that goes around. The cafe owner wasn't pressing any charges and she didn't even know that it was illegal. I saw this on the local news too. The guy was only checking his email. He got a $400 fine and 40 hrs of community service but come on. Even that seems harsh considering he AND the shop owner didn't know it was illegal. The justice system here is so f*cked up its not funny. The cops here (Kent county) are the most retarded ones around because of things like this.

    Another thing that pisses me off here in Michigan and I know I'm going of topic a little bit but, a new law was passed that if your vehicle breaks down on the highway its now a $500 fine while a speeding ticket is only $60. I don't know maybe I'm the retard here but to me this seems like this kind of shit here is the most f*cked up thing ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Eric Spitzfaden, May 23rd, 2007 @ 8:33am

    This hits close to home for me (literally) as I’ve use the the local coffee shops WiFi from my car while waiting to pickup my children from dance class.

    When I first read the article, my reaction was “It’s broadcast over the air. Radio waves aren’t limited to the walls of the store. This is unfair”.

    In reality, to access someone’s WiFi, you have to connect to the access point. You have to make a choice. It’s not like they are playing music that can be heard from across the street and then trying to arrest you for not paying my entrance fee. You don’t have to use their WiFi.

    It’s just like using the restroom. Some places don’t have a policy, others have signs that clearly state “Restroom for customer use only”.

    Michigan law states that “A person shall not intentionally and without authorization… Access or cause access to be made to a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network“. If you are a paying customer, that authorization is implied. Other times, it’s not so clear.

    I’d like to see signs that clearly spell out the terms of using the WiFi. “Purchase required to use WiFi” in the case of a coffee shop or restaurant, “Valid Library card required…” in the case of a Library. Until then, if I wouldn’t use the restroom, I won’t use the WiFi.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Sanguine Dream, May 23rd, 2007 @ 8:36am

    Bandwidth

    Some people here keep saying that nothing is lost but in fact bandwidth is being used up even if its an amount so small that its negligable. That cafe has a monthly bill on its internet connection and I'm sure its got some bandwidth limit that isn't very high since a coffee doesn't need as much as say a bank's corporate offices.

    In order for it to be unauthorized it's a simple matter of wheather or not the cafe owner intended for the guy to have access. If the owner didn't then the access should be encrypted and anyone breaking the encryption should be charged with unauthorized access.


    I really don't think its a cop looking to pick a bone with someone as much as case of a cop that does not understand and was trying to err on the side of caution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Maxillarypun, May 23rd, 2007 @ 8:43am

    A few comments

    1. Sparta, MI, where the guy was using the cafe wireless is a tiny little village with a population round 5,000.
    2. There was a sign on the cafe that read "Free Wireless for Customers only"
    3. Do any of the articles that mention this mention whether he went in and bought coffee or anything at this cafe at any time?
    4. It's Open Wireless for crying out loud! It's not like he had to hack it!
    5. And yeah, it does look suspicious for a guy to spend many lunch hours parked in front of the cafe with his laptop without going in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 9:13am

    Re: Michigan law is stupid


    Another thing that pisses me off here in Michigan and I know I'm going of topic a little bit but, a new law was passed that if your vehicle breaks down on the highway its now a $500 fine while a speeding ticket is only $60. I don't know maybe I'm the retard here but to me this seems like this kind of shit here is the most f*cked up thing ever.


    I'm betting this is because the law makers saw all those broken down cars as a source of revenue.

    Kinda like the parking situation on the campus I used to attend (NC A&T). Parking permits cost about $110 but the trick was about 2/3 of all the spots on the campus were "Reserved". I understand they more tickets than spaces will be sold but literaly for the 4 years I was there not a day went by that someone was getting a ticket or worse towed. If a professor caught a student in a their reserved spot the professor would block their car in and then call a tow truck. Add that to the fact that campus cops would write a ticket while in their carts, drop it on the car and literally speed away, the parking situation was out of hand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, May 23rd, 2007 @ 9:22am

    Re: Was there theft?

    The two examples you cite are both theft, because you took something of specific value that are paid for by the homeowner -- both water and electricity are purchased by units consumed.

    The case in question is not as clear -- if we assume the cafe's ISP TOS includes the allowed use of any number of attached computers, etc., and the cafe made the service availble without charge then I cannot see how this person's useage was any type of theft of unauthorized access.

    A law prohibiting the cafe from offering free WiFi access makes no more sense than prohibiting them from offering free napkins. They made a business decision to use the free service to attract paying customers, and expect to have greater profits over the long run.

    NB: These comments do not apply to residential wireless. At the very least anyone using a residential serive without explicit permission before connecting has placed the owner at risk of violating the TOS, since ISPs really don't like competing against themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Cops and Quotas, May 23rd, 2007 @ 9:22am

    Tickets

    I say that cop did not make his quotas then the law trying to uphold something makes completely no sense!!!!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, May 23rd, 2007 @ 9:33am

    Re: lousy comparison

    Niftyswell -- if you choose to give away water and electricity, go ahead. Please put up a sign saying so though, because most people don't do this.

    If you want to give away Internet service to your neighborhood, expect your ISP to cut off service once they check your usage levels -- or at elst tell you to purchase a commercial account at 10 times the residential rate.

    It is not illegal, but would be beach of contract (Terms of Service).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: lousy comparison

    It is not illegal, but would be beach of contract (Terms of Service).
    How are you familiar with his term of service?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Not a good comparison

    Well, in fact, it could end up costing that business more money, if, for example, you are using up part of their bandwidth, and because of that, you are slowing down the normal operation of that company, then, yes, you are costing them money...now thats stealing.
    Even if they are offering it to you for free? I don't think so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:15am

    Re: I think its similar to parking

    I think that what people are trying to say is that this guy is using someone else's bandwidth for free.
    Yep, after it was offered to him for free.

    I think this is similar to him using up a parking space in their parking lot. Although there were likely plenty of places to park, he made it so there was one less than normal, without any benefit to the shop. So some may say he was "stealing" parking.
    If the business asked him to leave their parking area and he refused then it would be a case of misdemeanor trespass, not felony theft.

    This should be a $20 ticket or something.
    It shouldn't be anything since the store was giving it away for free.

    I live near where this happened...
    Ouch, that must be hard to admit.

    They ended the story by saying that the law says that there must be malicious intent for it to be illegal. So there is no way that someone checking their email for free should be prosecuted.
    Or even ticketed.

    I think this was a false arrest made only to make a point...
    Absolutely.

    ...I hope that he can get a nice settlement out of it and that heads roll for a really bad decision.
    Not likely. He'll be lucky just to escape a felony conviction and prison. Especially with some of the local press cheering the case on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:21am

    Re: Why so paranoid?

    My guess is he's new or a moron, and yes, police have both types.
    If you had bothered to read the article instead of just practicing being a knee-jerk police apologist you would known that the cop is the chief of police which makes him their local top-cop. Not exactly some newbie or bottom of barrel member of the force.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:27am

    It's more like walking up to a restaurant and getting a drink from the water fountain. It may cost a minuscule amount for the restaurant, but it's not stealing unless they post a sign saying that 'only customers may use'. They could easily restrict the access to just customers, they didn't, therefore the access is open to non-customers.

    Please rank my analogy on a scale of 1 to 10. I give the "using someone's electrical socket" an unimpressive '3'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Bill Roberts, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:36am

    Unauthorized Access?

    If I access someones public website without there permission is it "Unauthorized Access"?

    Ack!!!

    I'm doing it now!!!

    I didn't get authorization from Techdirt to access their server.

    Clearly a case of "Unauthorized Access".

    And if your read this your guilty too.

    Infact anyone using the internet is guilty of "Unauthorized Access".

    I'm calling the police.



    On second thought, can I create a website, and sue everone who visitsd without authorization?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    Radio waves aren’t limited to the walls of the store.
    They can be if the store wants them to be.

    It’s not like they are playing music that can be heard from across the street and then trying to arrest you for not paying my entrance fee.
    No, it's even worse because in this case there was no entrance fee, it was being given away for free.

    It’s just like using the restroom. Some places don’t have a policy, others have signs that clearly state “Restroom for customer use only”.
    And so you would have someone arrested and charged with felony theft for using that restroom otherwise? You're not somehow related to the chief in this case are you? Besides, this case would be more similar to one where a place put up a flashing sign that said "FREE RESTROOMS".

    If you are a paying customer, that authorization is implied. Other times, it’s not so clear.
    Bull. Show me that case law. You're just making stuff up now. And in this case the guy asked for and received permission from the access point.

    Until then, if I wouldn’t use the restroom, I won’t use the WiFi.
    Well, like the rest of your argument, that certainly makes no sense. Someone may well offer free internet access without offering restroom facilities to go along with it. Whether you like it or not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:49am

    Re: Bandwidth

    If the owner didn't then the access should be encrypted and anyone breaking the encryption should be charged with unauthorized access.
    Exactly

    I really don't think its a cop looking to pick a bone with someone as much as case of a cop that does not understand and was trying to err on the side of caution.
    No way, my little apologist. The chief went and RESEARCHED the issue first. IF he then still had ANY doubts he could have asked the prosecutor's or city attorney's office for an opinion first. So there is no way the chief didn't know. Besides that, if ignorance of the law is no excuse for laypersons then it should certainly be no excuse for a chief of police.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:54am

    Re: A few comments

    2. There was a sign on the cafe that read "Free Wireless for Customers only"

    What is your source for that assertion? It isn't in any of the article linked here so far.

    5. And yeah, it does look suspicious for a guy to spend many lunch hours parked in front of the cafe with his laptop without going in.

    Suspicious? Not at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 11:57am

    Re: Unauthorized Access?

    On second thought, can I create a website, and sue everone who visitsd without authorization?
    Apparently so, but only in Sparta, Michigan.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Sanguine Dream, May 23rd, 2007 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Bandwidth


    No way, my little apologist. The chief went and RESEARCHED the issue first. IF he then still had ANY doubts he could have asked the prosecutor's or city attorney's office for an opinion first. So there is no way the chief didn't know. Besides that, if ignorance of the law is no excuse for laypersons then it should certainly be no excuse for a chief of police.


    Funny thing is I thought about that after I posted it and I have admit I agree with you on that. And that I have it seems like he was going out of his way to charge this guy with something. He was probably mad because the guy didn't "respect his authority".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    Alien, May 23rd, 2007 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    A police state with the most prisoners of any country in this world: 2,3 million. USA, The Land of the Free, has 5 percent of the world population en 25 percent of the world prison population. This billion dollar industry has a War on Drugs to fill up their cells and their bank accounts and now hey have a War on WiFi users. Congratulations!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    Dennis, May 23rd, 2007 @ 1:18pm

    Do the police go around arresting people who use the light coming out of a store window to read something?

    I see this kind of argument a lot, but it's not really analogous.

    If he is surfing the internet - that is two-way interaction. You must send data to get data. You can't just download web pages, you must request them. Therefore, your request data is trespassing on their network.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    identicon
    Dennis, May 23rd, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    It's like watching your neighbor's TV

    Using Open Wireless Connections Without Permission Is Like Watching you neighbor’s TV through his window, AND changing the channels!

    Watching your neighbor’s TV is basically one-way (packet-sniffing?), UNTIL you start changing the channel. Your neighbor might not notice you standing on the street looking in his window, but if you bring your own remote and start changing the channel, that is not going to end well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Bandwidth

    Funny thing is I thought about that after I posted it and I have admit I agree with you on that.
    Wow. Someone who actually has the ability to rethink something! Will wonders never cease?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:08pm

    Re:

    If he is surfing the internet - that is two-way interaction. You must send data to get data. You can't just download web pages, you must request them. Therefore, your request data is trespassing on their network.
    If you want to look at it as trespass then the shop's WiFi signals were trespassing in this guy's vehicle too. And if you were the Chief of Police of Sparta I suppose you could say that the shop was using the guy's car to reflect their signals and so they were were using the guy's car without authorization which amounts to felony auto theft in most places. There, is that better now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2007 @ 6:13pm

    Re: It's like watching your neighbor's TV

    if you bring your own remote and start changing the channel, that is not going to end well.
    Yeah, they might have to do something really, really drastic. Like closing their window covers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    identicon
    Tessuraea, May 23rd, 2007 @ 8:30pm

    If it's open, it's open.

    All you have to do is secure it when you set it up. You don't have to use *good* security--anything at all makes it clear that it's not meant for public access. All network setups can be secured. It's not a big deal.

    If you don't do it, you're making your signal publicly accessible. Every time someone tries to access it, your network is saying "sure, come on in, the water's fine." You can set up your network to say "go away, I don't know who you are." This is not complicated to figure out. You don't have to be a techie; reading the install manual that came with your router should be enough.

    I don't plan on feeling bad about using open wireless signals anytime soon. I don't feel bad about listening in on radio bands either... if someone doesn't want me to hear what they're saying on the public airwaves, they can darn well speak in code.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    identicon
    JosephC4mpbell, May 23rd, 2007 @ 10:34pm

    "1. Sparta, MI, where the guy was using the cafe wireless is a tiny little village with a population round 5,000.
    2. There was a sign on the cafe that read "Free Wireless for Customers only"
    3. Do any of the articles that mention this mention whether he went in and bought coffee or anything at this cafe at any time?
    4. It's Open Wireless for crying out loud! It's not like he had to hack it!
    5. And yeah, it does look suspicious for a guy to spend many lunch hours parked in front of the cafe with his laptop without going in."
    ___________________________________
    iPhone
    http://www.iphonetools.org/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    identicon
    SailorRipley, May 24th, 2007 @ 6:29am

    Re: Why so paranoid?

    RTFA, he's the police chief, so definitely not new...as for the moron part...shouldn't we be at least a little paranoid if/when moron's manage to reach the level of police chief...

    as for the arrest, according to the article, under Michigan law, access a computer system without authorization and you're committing a crime...which sounds like a reasonable law to me.

    So the guy should walk and sue their pants off...a WiFi is not a computer system by any definition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70.  
    identicon
    SailorRipley, May 24th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    Re: It's like watching your neighbor's TV

    you must be the Einstein of analogies...

    since I'm not, can you tell me what equivalent of the bringing your own remote and changing the channel (thus forcing your neighbor to watch something he not necessarily wants to) in the real situation is????

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71.  
    identicon
    justme, May 28th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    Re: The land of the free . .

    The land of the FEE and the home of the SLAVE

    Been there many times, but you'll never get me back whilst all the redneck "shoot all foreigners at will" type and their screwed-up version of what passes for law are in control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72.  
    identicon
    Big Al, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:30pm

    Douglas is the root of this problem

    Lawyers are the root of all evil. Douglas is so proud of having robbed Citizens of 4 million dollars because the cops, that make his slimy existance possible, made a mistake. For the one abusive cop, there are 10,000 brutal criminals that Douglas loves with all his heart. Why? Because the brutal criminals make Dougy money.

    Promote peace . . . kill a bad guy!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  73.  
    identicon
    Roy, May 31st, 2007 @ 8:52am

    Of course it is unethical. Vendors put free wireless in their establishments as a courtesy to their customers in order to increase business. If not a customer, you should be using it. That's the kind of thing you mom taught you in kindergarten and why there are signs like "Restrooms reserved for use by our paying customers", etc. The wifi hotspots are no different. Just because you can access, just because you don't have to hack to get into them, and just because once in the door and a customer you are free to use them, doesn't mean that outside the door, as a non-customer you should.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  74.  
    identicon
    Roy, May 31st, 2007 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re: Was there theft?

    >> If the home owner was offering free charging and water inside the house, then maybe it would be the same.

    ...only if the homeowner was offering those free things to PAYING customers INSIDE the house...anyone taking those things from from outside and not a paying customer would be breaking the implied contract and the purpose for which the provider is intending.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  75.  
    identicon
    Roy, May 31st, 2007 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Was there theft?

    >> So what was the difference between this man being inside the cafe (maybe 5 feet away) and standing outside? There
    >> was a clear sign saying "Free WIFI Access"... It didn't make any allusions to distance or surroundings.

    The difference is if within the retail establishment the person is an assumed customer, or at least a potential customer. The service is provided free for CUSTOMERS ONLY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  76.  
    identicon
    Roy, May 31st, 2007 @ 8:58am

    Re: Not a good comparison

    >> On the other hand, using a business' open Wifi should not cost them any extra money or problems unless you are
    >> doing something crazy like trying to crash their network.

    The same could be said for using an establishments restroom and not being a customer. The owner still has to pay the nominal amount for water, for cleaning staff and supplies, and one more, or one less person using the facilities doesn't cost any more.

    Yet, still, establishments post signs saying: "Restrooms are for paying customers only!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  77.  
    identicon
    K D, May 31st, 2007 @ 5:36pm

    Boycott Cafes that are involved in this sort of th

    I think the Union Cafe or Re-Union Cafe or whatever their name is should be boycotted until they pay this man's fines, attorney fees, and pay for his community service hours.

    What a horrid little police state (city) Sparta, MI must be.

    If the Cafe offers free internet what difference if you are inside or outside. I hope they make this thing right. Who wants to get a coffee where folks are that uptight anyway?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  78.  
    identicon
    K D, May 31st, 2007 @ 5:36pm

    Boycott Cafes that are involved in this sort of th

    I think the Union Cafe or Re-Union Cafe or whatever their name is should be boycotted until they pay this man's fines, attorney fees, and pay for his community service hours.

    What a horrid little police state (city) Sparta, MI must be.

    If the Cafe offers free internet what difference if you are inside or outside. I hope they make this thing right. Who wants to get a coffee where folks are that uptight anyway?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  79.  
    identicon
    MyOpinion, Jun 7th, 2007 @ 7:57am

    2 Comments

    1. If the person has ever made a purchase at the cafe, then he is a Customer and authorized. He he has probably made purchases without using the wifi.

    2. For small town Police farces, it is all about $$$ CASH FLOW $$$. The local judge is most likely in on it as well. Every school now has to have a "Resource Officer". Salary has to be covered by some means and the officer can't be out issuing tickets to cover it because he is baby sitting a bunch of kids at school.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  80.  
    identicon
    Gottaname, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 5:10am

    Abuse of power...Waste of tax dollars.

    As stated in my subject line... It was simply an abuse of power, a way for the police chief to get a chubby. As for tax dollars, how many children are going to be without text books because of this?!?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  81.  
    identicon
    joe, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 8:18pm

    freaking ridiculous

    I think the problem is the guy himself for not fighting the charges... settling for even a $10 fine would be apauling to me... If I were a lawyer I would have defended him for free right up to the supreme court. If we dont fight against injustice and laws that are malformed to suit someones specific goals then we might as well bend over and let a handful of people just do whatever they want. It was this guy's responsiblity to stand up for what is right. now the next person to do the same thing will already have a precedence against him...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This