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  • Michigan Wi-fi laws?

    http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-9722006-7.html

    A Michigan man who used a coffee shop's unsecured Wi-Fi to check his e-mail from his car could have faced up to five years in prison, according to local TV station WOOD. But it seems few in the village of Sparta, Mich., were aware that using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection without the owner's permission--a practice known as piggybacking--was a felony.
    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” - Dalai Lama (Seattle Times, 05-15-2001).

  • #2
    Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

    It's not just Michigan. EVERY state is like that, and it has little or nothing to do with WiFi per se. It is about connecting to a network.
    Thorn
    "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

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    • #3
      Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

      I'm actually glad to see this guy get punished because in this case, the network was completely unsecured. This demonstrates that accessing a network is illegal, no matter if the owner uses some form of encryption or captive portal) or whatever.
      "\x74\x68\x65\x70\x72\x65\x7a\x39\x38";

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      • #4
        Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

        what troubles me about this is that the establishment was a coffee shop. the article made it pretty clear that the business was making WiFi openly available to the public on purpose. this wasn't some improperly configured access point in someone's home... this was something specifically setup for public access.

        i realize that this also raises the issue of "paying customer inside the establishment" versus "guy standing outside and not on the property"... i call slight shenanigans on that sort of argument, however. if a bar has an open deck on the back featuring bands playing loudly enough to be heard 100 yards from the building, i'm free to stand on the sidewalk and listen to the music without buying a beer. if a restaurant has tables outside and uses those outdoor heaters to keep patrons warm, i'm free to stand nearby and soak up some excess radiant heat if it's a chilly evening... i'm not obligated to purchase a steak while doing so.

        if an establishment makes certain accommodations freely available to the public -- and even more importantly, if some of those things radiate beyond their property line -- then they do not have much or any control (in my mind) over people who happen to stop by and receive said services by standing nearby.

        if i stand outside of splash mountain water park and get hit with some of the waves created by the log flume ride, the park staff doesn't have the right to come dashing outside of the gate and charge me an admission fee. the owners of the park do have the right to setup barrier walls or something if they don't want me getting wet out there. and the owners of a coffee shop, the way i understand the law, have the right to install faraday cage wallpaper if they wish to prevent people from getting the free WiFi from outside.

        of course, they could also simply use a captive portal system which displays a web page connect message stating "this WiFi is exclusively for our patrons blah blah blah" which would more than clarify the matter of legallity. (then of course it gets sticky if you just walk in the door and connect without buying your $2 half-tall-grande-caf-soy-latte-whatever.)
        Last edited by Deviant Ollam; May 25, 2007, 07:57.
        "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
        - Trent Reznor

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        • #5
          Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

          The issue is ambiguous. If the establishment was advertising "Free Wifi" without any conditions noted, without any captive portal or security measure.. they have established the unit as a public Wifi node and anyone within rx range is (or should be) legally in the clear. If the node exists at the business and is unsecured, but is promoted as a "Wifi for customers", then use of the private resource without being a 'customer' is still maintained by the owner (much like restrooms for customers, etc). I did not see anything clear in the article that indicated the actual case, just a Typical Omgbeacons Rant From An Underinformed Writer In A Small Town (the longest title in the forums.netstumbler catalog).

          The larger issue is that the law is being investigated / enforced by street cops that are curious. I can understand them wanting to make sure I wasn't attempting to rob, deface, or perform some other unapproved activity.. but standard law enforcement, no matter how capable the officer, does not have within its power the ability to discern between legal and illegal node usage in that scenario. Did the officer consult the business in question and the business decided to press charges? Even outside a residence using WEP, how can they discern 1) which AP I'm connected to 2) that I haven't attained prior authorization 3) that it's not my own damn AP and that I'm stopping by the house real quick to snag something

          ?

          It's a very fine line from an ethical standpoint.. and entirely subject to the technical understanding of those enforcing the law. I would have sought a lawyer ;)
          if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.

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          • #6
            Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

            Deviant: One could make a similar argument about satellite TV. The signals are emanating across my property, therefore I should be able to use a compatible receiver to pick them up without paying (I'm talking about how it is, not how we'd like it to be). Legally this is theft of service through wireless signals emanating into public space.

            As C0n noted though, alot of it probably depended on if there was signage indicating 'customer use only'. From a business perspective, freeloaders are a PITA. I remember one article about a coffee shop that actually gained business when the WiFi was turned off. They had freeloaders coming in, buying the cheapest things and hogging all the chairs. Other customers would not come in if there was no space. Remove the Wifi, freeloaders left, higher paying customers now hung around and had space.
            Never drink anything larger than your head!





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            • #7
              Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

              Originally posted by Deviant Ollam View Post
              of course, they could also simply use a captive portal system which displays a web page connect message stating "this WiFi is exclusively for our patrons blah blah blah" which would more than clarify the matter of legallity. (then of course it gets sticky if you just walk in the door and connect without buying your $2 half-tall-grande-caf-soy-latte-whatever.)
              Originally posted by converge View Post
              The larger issue is that the law is being investigated / enforced by street cops that are curious. I can understand them wanting to make sure I wasn't attempting to rob, deface, or perform some other unapproved activity.. but standard law enforcement, no matter how capable the officer, does not have within its power the ability to discern between legal and illegal node usage in that scenario. Did the officer consult the business in question and the business decided to press charges? Even outside a residence using WEP, how can they discern 1) which AP I'm connected to 2) that I haven't attained prior authorization 3) that it's not my own damn AP and that I'm stopping by the house real quick to snag something

              ?

              It's a very fine line from an ethical standpoint.. and entirely subject to the technical understanding of those enforcing the law. I would have sought a lawyer ;)
              The particulars of this case seems rather ambiguous because we don't know things like the how the WiFi was advertised ("Patrons" vs "Public") or whether a captive portal and a lot of the details such as how the police figured out which AP was being accessed.

              As far as the technical aspects of the investigation are concerned, it appeared that much of the information came directly from suspect himself. Technical understanding by those enforcing the law doesn't have to be much, just enough to determine if a crime has been committed. While it is true the more they know, the better they are able to make that determination, true technical understanding is often left to experts they consult -"Expert Witnesses" in court parlance- who help the police and prosecutors make that kind of decision.
              Thorn
              "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                Originally posted by renderman View Post
                Deviant: One could make a similar argument about satellite TV. The signals are emanating across my property, therefore I should be able to use a compatible receiver to pick them up without paying (I'm talking about how it is, not how we'd like it to be). Legally this is theft of service through wireless signals emanating into public space.
                Actually, I do not think this is illegal in the US but will have to research it as it has been a while. The reason I do not think this is illegal is that I have done something similar in my past. Both with Satellite and with Microwave.

                In my budding days, I just happen to be within line of site of a microwave repeater used by a unnamed cable company which received certain stations *cough* HBO *cough* using a satellite downlink and transmitted them to the main station via microwave. Using a very nice sidebar signal, a soup can and some electronics parts from DigiKey, a friend and I constructed a microwave band receiver and intercepted and decoded HBO off the microwave signal. This worked well until they scrambled the signal.

                Any RF signal is subject to intercept and can be intercepted legally. What you do with it may turn something legal into something illegal. But I do believe as long as I use it for my own purposes I am within my legal bounds to RECEIVE any RF emission. Attaching to a WAP is a two way event and that changes the playing field.
                DaKahuna
                ___________________
                Will Hack for Bandwidth

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                • #9
                  Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                  Originally posted by DaKahuna View Post
                  Actually, I do not think this is illegal in the US
                  Circumventing billing checks / decoding the signal is generally the line on this one.. there is nothing illegal about receiving the scrambled signal.
                  if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                    Because this guy will get off easy by paying a fine, he most likely won't fight the issue any further, which is a shame regardless. This would be an interesting case to see the courts deal with.
                    "\x74\x68\x65\x70\x72\x65\x7a\x39\x38";

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                    • #11
                      Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                      This seems like much ado about nothing.

                      In golf you have taken a legal swing after addressing the ball and starting the swing. If at address your club touches the ball on the tee it is not a stroke. Even if you knock the ball off the tee accidentally at address you may replace the ball on the tee without penalty of stroke.

                      This guy was not hacking. He hadn't even stepped up to the tee. No harm no foul. Many of the laws in Michigan are archaic. Many on the benches and law enforcement officers there are too. This is no exception. Do a little digging and you'll find many other Michigan laws are nuts, "like selling hard liquor in the same store a firearm can be purchased." Man that makes it easy for the drunken wife beater who does not need to go very far to finish her off!

                      This guy needs a kick butt lawyer, and all of Michigan needs to rethink many laws on the books there. This law is excessive while other laws in Michigan make no sense at all.
                      Last edited by Greyhatter; May 28, 2007, 21:07.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                        Michigan Laws SUCK, Our legal system sucks and I've lost all respect for it. They set their eyes on someone and it doesn't matter if that person is guilty or not, they make sure they make that person's life a living hell.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                          The same happens over here in the UK. Here is an example of two people being caught near me,



                          OK, the AP's were private ones in this case.

                          However the article does'nt mention that the guy sat outside the house, in his car, with cardboard over the windows but they could see he was inside from the glow of his LCD screen.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                            The point here is that it is illegal to use a network that you do not have expressed permission to access.

                            It isn't only the state of Michigan as such laws exist in all fifty states in the US as well as many other countries. Everyone one of these laws that I've read doesn't care about the media. In other words it doesn't matter if the access is via Ethernet, wireless, or some other means. The criminal act comes about when access is made to the network without permission.

                            Michigan is hardly alone in this type of conviction. Several other states have reported arrests and convictions of a similar nature.
                            Thorn
                            "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Michigan Wi-fi laws?

                              Why are people so willing to back a guy that broke the law?

                              If you don't think using someone else's network without their permission shouldn't be against the law, then change the law.
                              "\x74\x68\x65\x70\x72\x65\x7a\x39\x38";

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