Today BBC news reported that a U.K. man was “arrested after being spotted allegedly sitting in a street with a laptop using someone else’s unsecured wireless connection.” Apparently, at least two others have been arrested on similar grounds, those grounds being a UK law called The Communications Act (2003). This act makes it an offense to “(a) dishonestly [obtain] an electronic communications service, and (b) [do] so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service.” It’s basically a law against quietly splicing into your neighbor’s phone line to get free long distance or into your neighbor’s cable so you can watch Mr. Bean for free. The fact that this is a result of corporations manipulating the laws to protect their profits aside,
Does anyone else see the almost comic idiocy of what’s going on here?
The BBC news tried to turn this into an ethical debate: if it’s a victimless crime how can it be wrong. But what about these poor schmucks who are facing fines or jail time for using freely a available service. Never-mind the cute analogies on the BBC page. The fact is,
Using free wifi has nothing to do with The Communications Act!
These guys didn’t dishonestly obtain anything. These guys didn’t lie about who they were – nobody asked! Its like when someone is giving away free movie tickets to parents – it’s not your fault if s/he doesn’t bother to ask if you are a parent, especially if there’s no sign up saying anything about parents. Second, what charge were they dodging? If something is just sitting there on the street, and using it does not seem to create any problems or losses for anyone, it is an accepted assumption in every society I know of that you can go ahead and use it. This is like being pulled over for not paying a toll on a bridge with no toll booths.
This is clearly false arrest or intentional misuse of law. Either way, it’s bullshit. Listen up BBC:
Nevermind whether using unsecured wifi is moral, arresting people under laws they didn’t break is definitely immoral.
So how about giving the crown prosecutor a call and asking him what he’s been smoking?