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Busted For Using Library Wi-Fi Outside The Library 746

Posted by timothy
from the salt-lake-city-burger-king dept.
sevej writes "Keith Shaw, in his weekly column "Wireless Computing Devices" (Network World Fusion), reported on a recent entry in AKMA's Random Thoughts where AKMA was using a public WiFi network outside of a library. A policeman approached him and asked that he only access the Internet from within the Library and hinted that Federal Laws against "signal theft" were applicable. Oh, and btw, we're not talking about a person that looked like your stereotypical 'hacker'; AKMA is an ordained priest."
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Busted For Using Library Wi-Fi Outside The Library

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  • How did they know? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by freitasm (444970) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:44AM (#10126521) Homepage
    I wonder how the police officee knew the priest was using wi-fi? A wi-fi sniffer or something like this?
    • RTFA. (Score:5, Informative)

      by JNighthawk (769575) <NihirNighthawk.aol@com> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:51AM (#10126539)
      He didn't. He assumed and even when he knew AKMA wasn't using wifi, he still told him to leave.
      • Re:RTFA. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PriceIke (751512) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @10:22AM (#10127943)

        This is so much bogus nonsense to me. The RIAA and the MPAA have cultivated this paranoia about computer use. I say if a public library's wi-fi network extends outside of the building, then citizens of that public (read as: taxpayer-funded) institution have just as much right to the bandwidth as they do inside the building.

        It is not ridiculous to assume that those individuals who configured and created the library's wi-fi network knew that it was not secured. Indeed they set up multiple access points, and did secure others. Knowing this, they made a conscious decision not to secure it and thus to service any and all client machines who wished to "climb aboard". It is public bandwidth paid for by the public's tax dollars. To my way of thinking, this cop is infected by the "it's illegal to be a geek" mindset/paranoia that's permeating our culture, resulting in such ridiculous expressions as "stealing music".

        "What? He used his brain and found a way to use his computer that wasn't expressly permitted by policy?" Yeah, folks, last I checked it was a free country .. maybe I'm deluding myself.

        • Re:RTFA. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mwood (25379) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @10:58AM (#10128420)
          Whether it's okay for AKMA (whoever he is) to make such use of the facility would seem to be entirely dependent on the library's acceptable-use policy. If it says you can use their wireless only within the building then that's that. If it doesn't say, I'd say your location is irrelevant to whether you are using the facility acceptably.

          Of course, the officer *did* have a copy of the library's AUP, right???

          Having read the article, I'm now wondering whether AKMA knows if the library's wireless network is in fact provided for the public, or only for staff. That would change the situation markedly. But if it is indeed public, then rousting someone for using it is a bit like rebuking somebody for "stealing" a pamphlet off a pile lying under a "take one" sign.
        • At risk of sounding like 'me too ', I agree totally.

          The public library is funded with tax dollars, and therefore open to use by the public. Key word there is PUBLIC...

          Secondly, since the wifi wasnt encrypted or anything to cause restriction, its the same as being IN the library, so the cop has no legal leg to stand on..

          I'm not so sure there is any legal ground to stand on if you access ANY unencrypted wifi point. You have to assume it was intended for public use if its not restricted in some way.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:02AM (#10126571)
      The key point isn't how they knew. The question is, how are YOU supposed to know if the access point owner does not want you to use the signal where it is technically available? After all there are lots of hotspots where the owner wants to provide internet access to public areas outside of buildings.
      • by whovian (107062)
        The question is, how are YOU supposed to know if the access point owner does not want you to use the signal where it is technically available?

        Don't lease an IP address until user visits a web splash page listing the terms of service and clicks Agree.
      • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @08:25AM (#10126944)
        I can understand the cop's confusion and inability to explain details of such regulations. There are way, way too many laws in place for a normal person to be able to cite chapter and verse of the actual statutes on every possible violation. But it's also easy to believe that a Secret Service agent gave them an extremely mistaken and civil-rights violating explanation of any applicable regulations, especially the Patriot Act. Remember, the Secret Service did the Sun Devil raids some years back and got their wrists slapped by the EFF and by Steve Jackson Games for those civil rights violations. They just don't get it when it comes to civil rights over "national security".

        Now, reading the article, this "priest" seems to make a real hobby of using other people's access points without their knowledge. Why can't he politely walk into the library and ask them if they mind if he uses it outside, preferably with the policeman in tow to help settle the issue? What the heck was this guy up to?
    • by SimianOverlord (727643) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:19AM (#10126634) Homepage Journal
      RTFA, fool. The policeman had a wireless laptop which was logged into CIA spy satellites through the library.
    • A WiFi-sniffing dog, obviously! I wonder if it does full 802.11a/b/g and if it has upgradable firmware...
  • Of what (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:46AM (#10126526)
    Of what... the church of Emacs?

    Sorry... had to :-)
  • signal theft ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mirko (198274) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:49AM (#10126531) Journal
    The signal itself was not stolen, it was the receiver's bandwidth.
    Now, had they secured their Airport, they would not had it vampirized.
    And I am not sure the inside/outside concept applies to a radio signal...
  • Hmm FCC? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Trauma_Hound1 (336247) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:50AM (#10126535) Homepage
    I would have asked the officer for his FCC badge.
  • Public Rights (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Agret (752467) <alias.zero2097NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:51AM (#10126538) Homepage Journal
    He should have replied that since it was a public access point that he was in his rights to use it in a public area (namely outside the library)

    "A policeman approached him and asked that he only access the Internet from within the Library"
    What if the guy wasn't using the Internet but was editing his site and was looking at the preview? (this was not the case but what if)
    • Re:Public Rights (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      Never!

      when a foot soldier (cop) confront's you. the ONLY thing you was is whatever it takes for him to become happy and go away. You DO NOT FIGHT with a cop, peace officer, soldier, whatever. You will not win anything.

      Say whatever it takes for him/her to be satisfied and go away, then YOU go away.

      you can protest AFTER the fact to your local newspaper, tv news, blog, whatever....

      only complete fools try and stand up to a cop because the Cop will always win that battle right there.

      you reply with, "Than
      • Re:Public Rights (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nosilA (8112) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @08:10AM (#10126846)
        You are right that it is foolish to argue with an officer if your primary goal is to save time and hassle. However, if you leave without any form of fight at all, there is nothing to protest and the offier is free to do the exact same thing to others in similar situations. If a cop simply asks you to stop doing whatever it is you are doing and you comply, any complaint you have will fall on deaf ears because the officer did not commit an offensive act. Only if the officer detains, searches, arressts, or otherwise violates your civil rights without reasonable cause can you mount a successful complaint. Civil disobedience is often the only effective way to get laws or behaviors changed.

        Personally, I'd take the safe route and pack up and leave, however I respect anyone who stands up for my rights by being a little defiant.
      • by DaHat (247651)
        Shhh! Don't say that too loud, do you really want to give away the secret to not going to jail or at least being booked?

        It would be interesting to see a good # of /. Persons finding this library, parking outside and surfing just to taunt this cop... and upon approach have them argue with him... only to have their hardware seized and them thrown in the county jail for 24 hours.

        And yes... I am one who believes that a person should know their rights and not need a police officer to tell them... down with Mir
      • Re:Public Rights (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sacrilicious (316896) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @08:36AM (#10127027) Homepage
        when a foot soldier (cop) confront's you. the ONLY thing you was is whatever it takes for him to become happy and go away. You DO NOT FIGHT with a cop, peace officer, soldier, whatever. You will not win anything.

        I sort of agree, but think I'd put it in less extreme terms.

        It's probably unwise to engage in outright physical contact with an officer. Not that they're supermen - they aren't - but they are in better shape than average, they're often armed, they can call for backup, and in the short term (before due process gets fully ironed out) their judgement is generally deferred to.

        In this case of a priest using wireless outside a library, physical contact does not sound like an issue. The question then becomes: is it worth the effort to explain whatever your position is to the approaching officer? I'd say the answer is yes IF the concepts involved are simple and familiar (not only are officers not supermen, they're even further from being Einsteins). A good thing to try to explain: "officer, I was making a perfectly legal left turn and that guy ran a red light." A bad thing to try to explain: "officer, as weirdly as spectrum has been treated in the history of our legal framework, its similarity to property is a false one for the following three reasons...."

        you reply with, "Thank you officer! I did not know! I will comply right away!"

        Personally, I think that's a little too much boot-licking. Officers are there ostensibly to serve the public. Citizens who conduct themselves politely are entitled to the respect of an officer. Yes, I know that some officers are buttheads, but if you don't actually become belligerent with them they will still have a very difficult time parlaying their unresolved childhood issues into a trip to jail for you. Presume your entitlement to respect when you likewise give respect. Don't pretend officers have a higher moral ground; that leads to a big brother state. If you've really done nothing wrong, don't give attitude... but don't send the message that an officer puffing his chest is a welcome thing.

  • well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Heem (448667) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:54AM (#10126545) Homepage Journal
    The big thing here is that he wasn't "busted" he was simply "asked" not to. If he were actually busted we'd get a chance for this to come across a judge and have a ruling.

  • by phreakv6 (760152) <phreakv6&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:55AM (#10126549) Homepage
    From the article: I responded, "But this is a radio signal thing -- it's not like a cable connection, it's like someone has a porch light on and I'm sitting on the bench, reading a book by their light. I'm not stealing their light."
    These are nowhere analogous,you are stealing bandwidth when u use WiFi this way,but its not the same with light which anyway is gonna illuminate the bench without an added effort to the wattage.
    • by Errtu76 (776778)
      I agree. Radio signals, light, are things you use but not consume (for lack of a better word, excuse my english). I know that over here in Holland there's indeed a law for this. If something is published in the ether, everyone able to receive it is allowed to do so.

      However, if you use bandwidth you're not simply using it as you would use a radio signal. Your intrusion (because that's what it is) is causing other users' bandwidth to decrease. Not only that, but you're active on a network that you shouldn't
      • by Dutchie (450420) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:16AM (#10126622) Homepage Journal
        I know that over here in Holland there's indeed a law for this. If something is published in the ether, everyone able to receive it is allowed to do so.
        --

        Ehr, 'Holland, the country' ? Coz I live there and I'm quite certain that's not the case. If you have a TV antenna here and you're receiving TV signals, you will be asked to pay 'kijk en luistergeld'.
    • It's perfectly analogous, since if he'd be in the library (notice he has a valid library card, and this is a public signal) he'd be using the exact same bandwidth.

      Best regards,
      Alex Ionescu
      Kernel Developer, ReactOS
      http://www.relsoft.net/ [relsoft.net]
  • Look?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:56AM (#10126552)
    Oh, and btw, we're not talking about a person that looked like your stereotypical 'hacker'; AKMA is an ordained priest.

    What are you advocating here exactly? That police officers are more justified to harrass some because of their look? Or that the law is less applicable to some people because of their job? With ignorant, prejudicial comments like this who needs rights eh? Let's just roundup all those who look like they may cause trouble and be done with it...

    Looks, job, race, gender, etc should have nothing to do with the law and law enforcement. Laws and rights apply to everyone equally.
    • Re:Look?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 808140 (808140) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:05AM (#10126587)
      While this sort of feel good about our country not profiling people stuff is all well and good, the submitter was making a pragmatic rather than ideal point.

      The truth is, if you are scruffy looking, not white, dressed in drag, or in some other way deviant from the norm, police are more likely to harrass you. Often, they do so simply because you look deviant, rather than because there is any enforcable law being broken.

      While I appreciate your point, try to appreciate the submitter's: what he's saying is, because AKMA is supposedly very wholesome looking, the cop's motivation in telling him to use the library's wifi inside the library only could not possibly have been because he was a "hacker type". In other words, this wasn't simple harrassment. It was "for real".

      We all hate the fact that people get harrassed unfairly, but they do. The submitter is recognizing this, not advocating it. If he had said, "I got asked to move on, and I was Arab and wearing a turban", we would naturally be outraged by the cop's mistreatment of an arab man, rather than by him being told to move on, because we would assume, understanding our rights, that the only motivation the cop could possibly have had for asking the turbaned man to move on was the fact that he was wearing a turban.

      The point here is that this isn't simple harassment: it's an erosion of our rights. I think I've beaten this point to death already, I hope you understand it now.
    • Re:Look?? (Score:5, Funny)

      by proj_2501 (78149) <mkb@ele.uri.edu> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:18AM (#10126629) Journal
      From the summary:
      AKMA is an ordained priest.

      From the article:
      "It's a law, sir; if someone comes along and downloads child photography (that wasn't the exact word the officer used) and it goes through their [sc., the access point owner's] connection, that's a violation and we've had cases of that. That's a felony."

      No profiling, my ass.
    • Re:Look?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Epistax (544591) <epistax@noSPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:29AM (#10126676) Journal
      Laws and rights apply to everyone equally.

      Except politicians...
      and other policemen...
      and celebrities...
      and foreign nationals.

      I'm probably missing a few groups. Then again I've been awake for about 5 minutes.
  • Worrying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenjyD (316700) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:56AM (#10126554)

    I held up my TiBook, pointing to the zero lines in the Airport icon, and showed the officer that my card was off.
    "Why don't you just close that up, sir, or use your computer elsewhere?'

    Quite apart from the signal stealing part, isn't the fact that the cop asks him to move on a bit worrying? He's demonstrably not breaking the law and is sitting on public land. Are they just going to ban using laptops with wifi cards near any wireless point?

    • Re:Worrying (Score:3, Informative)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365)

      isn't the fact that the cop asks him to move on a bit worrying?

      No, it seems like fairly standard behaviour. The cop probably thought that the guy had quickly switched off the WiFi card, and suspected that it would be turned back on as soon as he left. So the cop asks the guy to leave.

      It's the same if a cop thinks you're defacing property or if you're up to other shenanigans, but he hasn't actually see you break the law so he cannot take you in or fine you. If he suspects you'll do something bad when

    • Hey, the cop asked nicely, which just goes to validate Glonoinha's Rule #61 :

      People are more likely to cooperate with you if you ask nicely and have a gun, than if you ask rudely.

      That said, why didn't the guy simply walk into the library, sit down at one of their nice tables and use his laptop on the Internet in the Library using the wifi? The cop may not have been right, but there is nothing more dangerous than a cop who is willing to be wrong.
      • Re:Worrying (Score:5, Informative)

        by djmurdoch (306849) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @08:42AM (#10127061)
        That said, why didn't the guy simply walk into the library, sit down at one of their nice tables and use his laptop on the Internet in the Library using the wifi? The cop may not have been right, but there is nothing more dangerous than a cop who is willing to be wrong.

        One of the followup articles explained that the library was closed at the time.

        Another one said

        The Atheneum has just now posted a policy stating that the wifi connection is available only between a half-hour after they open to a half-hour before they close, on days that they're open. The stated reasonn is "for better maintenance and operation." Case closed.
        • Re:Worrying (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ALpaca2500 (125123)
          the wifi connection is available only between a half-hour after they open to a half-hour before they close, on days that they're open.

          i dont know what kind of access point they're using, but my off-the-shelf consumer one lets me set what times it can be used... if they dont want people to use it, why do they leave the damn thing on?
  • Not Signal Theft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruha (412869) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @06:57AM (#10126558) Homepage Journal
    IIRC there have been many lawsuits upheld on the basis of if the signal enters your property it's public domain. Otherwise people could say that company was liable to pay them to access their airspace and such. That's why decoders were technically legal for so long.

    Now the DMCA makes it illegal to decode those signals.

    Now I dont understand why some landowner who owns huge tracts have not sued the satilite broadcasters for using their airspace as a transmission medium again and ask for royalties and why cities have not charged tarriffs since they're essentially getting a free ride over the airwaves. If it was fiber optics buried in the ground they'd pay.
  • by Zog The Undeniable (632031) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:00AM (#10126562)
    Film at 11.
  • Oh great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:01AM (#10126567)
    Now that's just great, now we're slashdotting a priest....
  • by TheCyko1 (568452) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:01AM (#10126569)
    Oh, and btw, we're not talking about a person that looked like your stereotypical 'hacker'; AKMA is an ordained priest."


    He's still got glasses and wears all black. Sounds like probable cause to me.

    I'm joking, in case you can't tell.
  • by ScottGant (642590) <scott_gant AT sbcglobal DOT netNOT> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:03AM (#10126576) Homepage
    Seriously...where was this at? I read his site and didn't see where he's from.

    I smell something very fishy here BTW. He showed the cop the second time that he wasn't connecting to anywhere and yet the cop told him to move along. Move along? He was on a bench on public land just looking at his computer! The cop had no right to tell him to move along!

    Two sides to every story I suppose, but would be interesting to call the police station and get their take on it...if only I knew where this was all taking place.

    Also, where is this story reported from? The submitter of the story said "Keith Shaw, in his weekly column" yet the link just goes to an index where I can't find anything on AKMA...nor does it even show up on a search of the site!
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:06AM (#10126588) Homepage Journal

    I was at a party last week and a guy is talking to my friend

    guy : "... we noticed someone was sucking our bandwidth via the wifi, cut him off, looked outside and saw a red BWM with a laptop on the passenger seat drive away"

    friend : "hehe that's him," points at me.

    busted !

    ah, the perils of wardriving.

    I thought wardriving was going to be an interesting hobby, got all the kit - wifi-card, laptop, inverter, usb gps.

    I drove 2 miles from my house to my friends and on the way discovered 30 access points along the main road !

    Turns out urban wardriving is just too easy here in the UK.

  • US CODE COLLECTION (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phreakv6 (760152) <phreakv6&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:07AM (#10126592) Homepage
    Here is the law [cornell.edu].Refer (a)(2)(C)
    • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <sorceror171@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:40AM (#10126720) Homepage
      The most I can see that he might conceivably have done is intentionally access[ed] a computer without authorization or exceed[ed] authorized access, and thereby obtain[ed]... information from any department or agency of the United States; or information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication.

      If he wasn't actually hacking a bank, though, it doesn't seem like he could violate a "protected computer". It seems doubtful that he "exceeded his authorized access" (a librarian would presumably be the authority on that, not a police officer). Perhaps he could have asked the librarians at that point.

      And even so, unless he visited the DMV website or something he didn't "obtain information from a government agency" anyway.

      There's no way sitting outside the library while in possession of an operational laptop could violate this law.

      IANAL, of course, etc. etc.

  • Theft analogies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by siliconjunkie (413706) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:09AM (#10126596)
    I'm really getting tired of these "it's like stealing..." analogies. Between the MPAA and The Airwave NAZIs, I'm beginning to wonder if people REALLY understand technology at all...

    The Airwave Nazis will say something similar to the cop in blog posting listed in the article above. Something along the lines of "It's like stealing somebodies cable or walking up and plugging in your hairdryer to the electrical outlet on the outside of their home"

    NO, it's NOT.

    The priest in the article likened it to reading off their porchlight,which is a pretty good analogy. I prefer to say that it is more along the lines of tossing your empty bottle into someones trashcan they have set to the curb without a lid (it may not be "polite" and *some* people might not appreciate it too much....but you're not "stealing" their trash service by doing so). If someone gets so upset at the idea that someone passing by might throw their empty coke bottle into their beloved garbage can, they can simply put a lid on it (which would discourage most would be bottle-throwers) or, in the analogy, the WiFi AP owner could simply turn on WEP (which would discourage most would be bandwidth users).

    Regardless of the analogy, it simply is not "stealing", no matter what some judge decided.

    Theft of service, my ass.
  • but it was closed (Score:3, Informative)

    by Errtu76 (776778) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:21AM (#10126641) Journal
    "The library was closed at the time, or else I'd have gone ahead in to finish my surfing."

    Just a thought: if the library puts up a sign (inside ofcourse) that you can use the internet. Does it mean you can keep on using it, outside the building, after that library closes?
  • Bad Cops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:25AM (#10126656)
    Please remember the percentage of bad cops is proportionate to the percentage of bad citizens- perhaps a little higher. With little pay and very little respect from the general public, the only incentive beyond pure altruism I can see for becoming a cop is the power trip.
  • Simple Defense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BobSutan (467781) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:27AM (#10126667)
    You can't steal what's being given away for free.
  • The real point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by upside (574799) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:31AM (#10126683) Journal
    The policeman's conduct was perfect, he followed orders. The real point here is a federal law that stops you from using WiFi outside, or the fact that it's interpreted that way.
    • Re:The real point (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jrod2027 (809997)
      <I>The real point here is a federal law that stops you from using WiFi outside, or the fact that it's interpreted that way.</I>

      There's no such law, and the officer said no such thing. What he did say was it was "signal theft". It sounds like the library has a policy in place against anyone from using their network from outside the building. The library is certainly free to put policies like this in place since it is their network, and even enforce such policies.
      • Re:The real point (Score:3, Insightful)

        by richie2000 (159732)
        The library is certainly free to put policies like this in place since it is their network, and even enforce such policies.

        Yes. The problem is they haven't and they didn't. There were no signs explaining such a policy and no library-enforced rules. The policeman was not acting under orders from the head librarian to go out in the land and stop any and all bandwidth-stealing priests that may be roaming the nearby countryside. Strawman.

  • revenge (Score:5, Funny)

    by whimdot (591032) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:42AM (#10126729)
    Later the same day the policeman was excommunicated for praying outside his local church.
  • by teridon (139550) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @07:50AM (#10126765) Homepage
    Other than physical notice like signs or TOS agreements, is there a current way to advertise "this is a public WiFi network" over the network itself? Obviously if the library wanted they could post a sign outside that said the network was public access. But what if you want to run a public spot from your house? or apartment? A sign isn't going to be seen by everyone.

    If there is no current convention, maybe it could be done by, say, sending a periodic broadcast packet on a specific port with a text message. "This network is public access" or something. Maybe there needs to be an RFC?
  • by bcarl314 (804900) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @08:17AM (#10126883)
    My question is, was this person still on library property? I don't know about this particular library, but many of the ones I visit have an outside area to sit and read the books you just checked out. So, if he was still on the library's property, isn't he still "in the library"?

    And another thought (random as it may be) doesn't he, as a taxpaying citizen (yes church folk still have taxes) have a right to use a public access wiFi connection? After all, it's offered as a free service to the public, not just some of the public.

    Now if he was doing something malicious (hacking their server, sending spam), perhaps the police have a point, but for general use, I don't see how simply accessing a public connection is a problem.
    • (yes church folk still have taxes)

      Not that this has anything to do with anything, but having taken a vow of poverty, it's not at all unlikely that a particular Roman Catholic priest pays no income or property taxes (which typically support libraries). Of course, that doesn't change his standing with respect to the rights to services offered to all citizens.

      Ironically, this is my 666th comment with this account.

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @08:40AM (#10127049) Homepage Journal
    My brother in law is a civil engineer. His pet peeve is that somebody will get hurt when a porch railing collapse, and the local authorities will amend the building code to require that porch railings be built stronger. Except that the problem was that the railing didn't meet code to begin with. Then carpenters will scratch their heads and ask him whether a railing they just built is strong enough.

    His solution is the "butt test". Take the biggest guy you have on site. Stand next to him a couple feet away from the rail, and fall backwards so your butts land on the rail at the same time. If this doesn't make you nervous, then the railing is strong enough.

    This situation is pretty much analagous to a lot of cyberlaws. They're supposed to "clarify" things but all they do is create a bunch of new restrictions everyone has to learn to steer their way around. It all gets muddled up in the average person (or cop's head) to the point where they are n't sure what is legal or not. It probably never makes sense to propose a law to "clarify" anything, at least until the courts have had a crack at the situation. Prosecutors are pretty creative at finding ways to do this, and if the courts get it wrong, then it's time for a new law. Programs can be created to educate police and prosecutors on strategies for using existing laws. But that would (a) take longer, (b) appear to be more expensive and (c) doesn't sound as good. It sounds better to say "I wrote a law to stop kiddie porn over the Internet", than "I sponsored a program to teach law enforcement how to use the law against people trafficking in kiddie porn on the Internet." Create an educational program points out the (true) fact that you can't do anything directly about kiddie porn, you're one step removed from the actual action.

    I should point out reason (d), though: new laws are a chance to change the way the law works to favor one party or another.
  • by AetherBurner (670629) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @09:04AM (#10127191)
    Cellphones work on the assumption that the radio frequencies used are to have the same operative security from snooping as wireline communications. This is one of the reasons that radio scanners have the cellphone frequencies blocked out. Computer networking relies on wireline transport. Wi-Fi transport is relatively new. Even though the signal passes through the walls and outside, if the operational policy of the library (run by the city or county), who runs and maintains the AP, states that you have to be within the physical building to use the services, they are within their right to ask the local gendarme to ask the errant user to quit. Since they would have the ability to control who plugs in a ethernet cable into a public router, the same idea here should apply here to the wireless side. AFAIK, the FCC has not transported the cellular telephone privacy idea to Wi-Fi. It would be interesting to see if some deep-pockets spread some dead-president lubricant on the FCC to enact the philosophy or worse yet, having Wi-Fi ports be licensed with the usual outrageous wallet tapping. If those thieves do that, then I drop my Part 15 operation and switch over to Part 97 operation using VPN.
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @09:16AM (#10127304) Homepage

    I am not a Lawyer, but I am a US Citizen with the inherent responsibilities that entails. (I posted a comment to the following effect in reply to Akma's thread)

    Akma passed up a slow ball thrown by God in the game of Good vs. Evil on this one. As my good friend Henry Davis Thereau would have been quick to point out, a bit of Civil Disobedience was called for and quite appropriate here. This is exactly the kind of situation that could have resulted in a nationally publicised arrest that resuts in exposure of the Law's absurdity and education of the masses that might ... just might ... force the out of hand legislators to clean up their act somewhat. His reaction, IMNSHO, was selfish and self-serving.

    I have noticed a large number of people arguing about Akma's analogy regarding the porch light and claiming that a person standing in the light doesn't take up any bandwidth. Really? Perhaps these people have never noticed a shadow? Even in the case of a light directly overhead, if one looks within themselves for the answer so to speak, they will realize that they are eating up light bandwidth in the geophysical location they occupy. Bits and people move at different rates to be sure, but wherever the [person as bit] goes, there they are, eating up light bandwidth!

    If noone else needs to stand where I am when I'm there, does it effect anyone that I am eating up that bandwidth. Things get complicated and philisophical from here, but it should be reasonaby clear that his analogy holds quite well to those who couldn't see it before at this point.

    Of course, being a preist accused of possibly downloading child porn, perhaps he had good reason to throw his civil rights out the window and bow and pray to the powers that be (just a rhetorical comment to make my point Akma, and I realize that you are not Catholic.) The point is this ... maybe he doesn't look like a hacker, but if he does look like a Christian religious figure-head, perhaps the copper was doing a bit of profiling. Nantucket is part of Massachussetts ... home state of Cardinal Law and the Catholic child molesting scandal.

    This would have made such a great case on so many levels, I can only hope he has what it takes to go back there, throw open his laptop, and wait for a cop to try it again so that he can tell the him or her to go fsck himself ... as politely as possible, of course!
  • by soloes (415223) <avezes AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @09:17AM (#10127320) Homepage
    if this was in the USA, actually thanks to HBO in 1981 it is NOT illegal the officer was completely wrong. the law is very clear on this. It is not illegal to take any signal out of the air. it is however illegal to decrypt a signal. That is why HBO ended up having to scramble their signals. They were sueing provate satellite dish owners and manufacturers for copyright infringement. The US supreme court held that if it was not encrypted, it was indeed public domain.
    Secondly, the FCC has detemined certain channels to be public use. the 2.4 gig range used by WI/Fi is among those.
  • Library Wifi laws (Score:4, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @09:19AM (#10127338)
    So from the article I assertain that:
    a) our friend the priest was accessing a PUBLIC WIFI AP
    b) it was from a Library offering PUBLIC NET access
    c) it is illegal (according to Boss Hog) to access a PUBLIC ACCESS spot (even though the range allows you to) from outside that building.
    You know it makes me wonder, how many of these laws are real. The articles author could have hopped into the library to look it up. It would not at all surprise me to see that no law exists concerning Public WIFI AP's.
    Ok true people have dl'd kiddie pr0n on other peoples bandwidth but still. The ones doing that aren't going to stop because now it's a Federal Law.
    I would have searched for that law. Printed it out and had I found nothing even remotely close. I would have told Boss Hog he was harrasing me and to shuffle his way down to Dunkin Donuts.
    I am not one who hates Police and thinks they are all "The Man".
    They are there for our protection, and I applaud them for the job they do.Yet I also wonder how many of them, create these imaginary laws and tell people well it's a such and such law you cant do this. People may argue, but like the blog stated "you can explain it to the Cheif if ya like", so he has threatened to arrest this Priest on possibly an imaginary charge. My bet would be that if the Priest did not cease and he went before the Magistrate it would have been something completely different than accessing a public wifi spot outside a library.
  • by 99bottles (257169) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @02:10PM (#10130760)
    As the I.T. director for a public library, let me give my $.02

    We use a timed based ACL to restrict connections while we're closed, but I couldn't care less what you do while we're open. We force a page on the first HTTP request, which gives you the ACU and notes that you're agreeing to it by proceeding. Included in that ACU is adhearing to the law (fed. , state, and local). That ACU doesn't mention where you can use the signal, but if it's a nice day...

    People surf for porn all the time inside the building. Heck, I'd prefer if they'd take it outside. Granted, we've never had to deal with illegal child porn, but if we did, we'd at least have a MAC address and hostname to watch for if they returned.
  • We did it on purpose (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mschuyler (197441) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @02:31PM (#10130948) Homepage Journal
    I'm recently retired as an IT director for a public library. Two years ago I put WiFi in place at nine branches and INTENTIONALLY placed hubs near windows facing parking lots to allow WiFi access outside the buildings and outside normal open hours. We don't guarantee outide (or inside) 100% coverage. (Dooesn't work? Move to another chair!), but the idea is to provide free public access.

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