Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




Here Comes The Bigger Debate On The Legality Of Open WiFi Usage

from the this-ought-to-be-pointless dept

Earlier this week, we pointed to the story of a man in Florida being charged as a felon for simply using an open WiFi network. That was based on a locally published news story in Florida, but that story went big yesterday when the Associated Press wrote up an account of it leading to a much bigger discussion (and a few people submitting it here, even though we'd written about it earlier in the week). Most of the new coverage has just rewritten the original story, but News.com has a more detailed question and answer discussing all the legal questions associated with accessing open WiFi, and concluding, basically, that it's an open question. Of course, some people have been having this discussion for years. In the end, the real question is what is being "lost" here. In most cases, absolutely nothing -- which is why it's hard to consider using an open WiFi access point as "theft." In fact, some (though, not many) ISPs consider it a good idea and downright neighborly. The actual laws on the matter are way too vague -- but looking at the reality of the situation should lead people to recognize that this is not theft at all.

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  1. identicon
    Hazama, 8 Jul 2005 @ 7:35pm

    Re: How do you tell

    Are you linux guys or Mac guys... or just democrats? Because your arguments are retarded. I have since encrypted my network, but there are a LOT of people out there who aren't educated enough to do so. Stealing or not, the reason this guy is going away is because of WHAT he was doing while on my network.

    I think it's a total grey area, and I refuse to believe that this is a victimless crime. If I didn't know the guy, but he asked to use my internet, I probably would have let the guy sit on my lawn for a couple of minutes... but because he didn't, I have no pity for what happened.

    If a homeless guy mugs you, takes your cash... you get angry. If he asks, and you give him some, fine. But it's a service that I pay for, just like cable tv. I wouldn't want anyone else to steal that, either.

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