Thursday, May 24, 2007

Great Minds Think Alike

Over at Instapundit, Prof. Reynolds (whose class I unexpectedly got to sit in on while considering University of Tennessee for law school) links to Wired post regarding the poor schmuck who got fined for using a coffee shop's WiFi connection without buying anything. They want to know if anyone has an analogy for what this might be like.

Oddly enough, I posed a very similar question to my lawyer dad a week or so ago. Was it stealing? His WiFi has intruded into your...airwaves, I guess. Might it be like picking an apple from a neighbor's tree branch which has grown over your fence? Using his connection might cause him a slight loss in speed but would it truly be more than negligible (assuming you weren't doing a lot of streaming)? Isn't this a similar situation to having a radio or TV antenna? Courts have ruled that you don't have the right to record anything you want off your radio or TV; does this mean that you can't download anything if it's not from your own connection or one to which you have rights? It could be argued that you're stealing bandwidth from the service provider, I suppose, even if not your neighbor. If so, wouldn't the fault lie with the neighbor for not securing his connection?

What would happen if his signal interfered with yours? I'm sure, like with garage door openers, these signals don't share the exact same frequency but what if they did? Could you legitimately use some kind of a jammer?

Do people have right-of-way to your airspace? For building purposes they don't and there have even been cases of churches selling their aerial-development rights to neighboring buildings to allow those buildings to be built higher than normally allowable. If you had a low-level cell phone jammer that had a range that didn't extend outside of your apartment but blocked the signal to your downstairs neighbor would he be wronged?

I think the next three years are going to be very enjoyable but will also make my head hurt a lot.

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