Federal judge: open WiFi doesn't make you liable for your neighbors' misdeeds


27 Responses to “Federal judge: open WiFi doesn't make you liable for your neighbors' misdeeds”

  1. Anonymous says:

    They criminalize because they can. For instance:
    As Nixon aide John Ehrlichman said: ”Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalise their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue for the Nixon White House that we couldn’t resist it.” (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/jury-in-on-heroin-ban-20090923-g2m5.html)

    Because we can, we should resist every move they make, or we will lose everything.

  2. Jnixx says:

    If you want to share wifi with your neighbours, give them your encryption key. That way you avoid having people doing things on your network which might result in you needing to invest in a new front door but still share with people you trust.

  3. Chevan says:

    Ah, so all I need to do is elevate my case to the Federal level!

    I’d rather not have my name dragged through the mud for months in the meantime, though.

  4. kibbee says:

    While you may not be liable, and you’ll probably get found innocent when someone uses your connection for nefarious purposes, that doesn’t mean that you won’t get your door knocked down by a SWAT team. For more info on what I’m talking about, see (http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/04/25/1415259/Bizarre-Porn-Raid-Underscores-Wi-Fi-Privacy-Risks). Leave your connection open if you want. I don’t really think it’s worth the risk. Not only don’t I want the SWAT team breaking down my door, I don’t want to have to pay for a lawyer to prove my innocence.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This post is a hundred time better when you live in France, a country where you’re responsible for your own WiFi line.
    Implying that if someone hacks your WiFi and get caught downloading music over the Internet, you’re the one who gets blamed.
    Yup. Frenchies are that stupid.

  6. Major Variola (ret) says:

    Ok, Mofo, swat me. I’ll sue you and retire.

    My open net is called dlink.

    I am a cryptographer, could secure myself beyond most of you; but I choose to share.


  7. Jake0748 says:

    Wise judge. Let’s hope his way of thinking catches on.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If people have this much trouble with an open access point, imagine how much trouble you will have if the neighbour breaks your weak wireless encryption…

  9. travtastic says:

    As much as I would love to open mine up, nothing short of a very specifically-worded law to this effect would make me do it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Easier solution, limit the fine for noncommerical file sharing to the lowest retail price it was ever offered at times 2.

    Then you have less lawyers interested in way below $3k paydays by telling people their magic system can prove you did it.

    But then these cases are about punishing perverts, so not alot of coverage of the problems with the cases and the law.

  11. willyboy says:

    In America? Yes. Weez lovez us some fear.

    • travtastic says:

      I hope terrorists don’t hijack my cell tethering and use it to launch cyberwar. I better add some numbers and letters to my password.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Nice to hear this.

    Here in good old Germany it’s exactly the other way round:

    The Highest Federal Civil Court, the Bundesgerichtshof, did find last summer that open WiFi – does – make you liable for your neighbors’ misdeeds. Sigh.

  13. CheshireKitty says:

    AWESOME! Let’s hear it for smart judges!

    We closed our open wireless network after discovering our neighbor’s kid was using a lot of our bandwidth to download music, but as my husband said, “We don’t need some nutcase threatening the President and having the Secret Service breaking down *our* door.”

    • Nonentity says:

      The problem with secured WiFi is, when someone cracks it and *then* uses it for threatening the President or downloading child porn, you have even less on your side.

      Limiting MAC addresses helps, but isn’t foolproof (particularly if you have devices that aren’t always online). It would be nice if wireless routers had a built-in way to force connections to an HTTPS login page on first connection, but as far as I can tell that kind of thing needs to be rolled together from scratch if you want it.

      • travtastic says:

        Do people actually sit around and worry about things like this?

        • Nonentity says:

          I’m a network admin. It’s part of my job to worry about these things on at least some level.

          Do I sit around and worry about it? No. However, I am well aware of how easy it is to break WiFi encryption, and TFA shows that there is a non-zero chance of having someone make use of your WiFi access for things that will create a lot of problems and no easy way to prove innocence.

          Does an article like this *not* make you think, even for a moment, about how little there is you could use to defend yourself in a situation like this?

          • Ugly Canuck says:

            Ya see, that’s the general problem with requiring people to prove their innocence – they end up living in fear of a tyrannical State and the Police.

            Where I’m from, the prosecution needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt….I guess that may be different now Stateside, eh? At least when it comes to the internet.

          • Nonentity says:

            “Where I’m from, the prosecution needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt…”

            You really think that this is all you have to worry about in, say, a child porn accusation? That’s so cute. I hope you’re never involved in one of these kinds of cases.

            Considering that it’s news-worthy for a judge to realize that an open WiFi point could introduce uncertainty into an accusation, I personally hope that I won’t ever end up in a situation where my only defense is “reasonable doubt”. I’m not gonna lock myself in a room in fear of it, but I’ll still think about it from time to time. YMMV, of course.

            travtastic: Here, I’ll say it again, all by itself, so you don’t miss it this time:

            “Do I sit around and worry about it? No.”

            Kindly stop acting as though I’m advocating that everyone rip the antennas off of any wireless network equipment they have. Thank you.

          • travtastic says:

            Kindly don’t freak out.

          • AnthonyC says:

            You need proof to convict, but merely “evidence” to get a warrant for your arrest, and/or break down your door and raid your home. And as far as reporters/neighbors/future employees are concerned, that counts just as much.

            And @Major Variola (ret): No, I don’t think you would. A SWAT team breaking down your door is not itself illegal, even if you are not convicted. Nor are you legally entitled to any compensation for the effects of having your name dragged through the mud during a trial. What, exactly, do you think you would sue for?

          • travtastic says:

            I concern myself with reasonable chances. All possibilities are non-zero. Someone could very easily, you know, walk up and shoot me in the head. I still go outside. I don’t wear a bullet-proof visor around, I just go out.

  14. Bubba says:

    This is a step in the right direction. What we really need is legislation that explicitly frees folks from culpability for leaving their network open. Providing a service for your neighbours should not lead to automatic guilt for their transgressions.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      As you say, a step in the right direction. And a big one.

      Let’s see how long this step is allowed to stand.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Nice what the judge ruled, but if your network is used for illegal purposes, it still is technically a weapon of a crime and can be seized by law enforcement or subpoenaed as evidence. This potentially includes every device attached to your network.

    So, limit access by MAC address, turn on encryption and turn off broadcasting.

  16. Oren Beck says:

    Perhaps we may rephrase Orwell for our time’s issues?

    In a time of universal repression, Open Wifi is a revolutionary act.

    Think about that carefully. Ask “Why” there would be such a Pogrom being orchestrated against Open/Anon WiFi. And lest we forget history:


    Do study just what befell Penet, and more importantly, how, let alone why. There’s so many opposing parties -Economically and Ideologically opposed to Free/Open “anything” as to defy enumeration. So invoking Pr0n or whatever is essential to their gamings. It’s often all about Money or Repression more than anything else.

    Penet type services+Anon/Open WiFi=Freedom of Speech incarnate. Yeah, that’s a dangerous concept indeed.

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