Thursday, May 24, 2007

I guess I was mistaken: stealing Wi-Fi is illegal

At least in Michigan, it appears that accessing wireless internet networks is, indeed, illegal (see previous post, "Using free wireless at library described as theft"). Sam Peterson had been using the Wi-Fi of a Sparta coffee shop to check his email during lunch, but the Sparta constabulary took note, and actually took the time to determine how to charge him with a crime. Andrew Milanowski, Sparta's Police Chief, "had a feeling a law was being broken" so he took it upon himself to investigate the crime, "and found Michigan's 'Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks' law, a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine." On this occasion, despite the protestations of the non-victim, Mr. Peterson was hit with a $400 fine and 40 hour sentence of community service, but he can count himself lucky that he did not have his laptop confiscated and searched by the overly-zealous Sparta police department.

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