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RE: Interesting Ruling Regarding WiFi access
From: cwright () bdosyd com au
Date: 1 Jun 2007 22:48:34 -0000

I fail to see how this is difficult to understand. The "free wireless" is not free and is not "public". The service is 
not an altruistic attempt to give Internet access to all people in the city; rather it is a marketing opportunity for 
the café.

They are offering a service, “stay and use our café, drink our coffee and the service is included as a part of the 
deal” so to say. This is – they are not offering the Internet connection to people who do not use the café.

If you find a power point do you think that you have the right to arbitrarily connect to it and use free electricity? 
Do you think that you have the right to arbitrarily connect a hose to a city water main and fill a water tanker for 
free? These are all the same principles. Why people think that the Internet, computers and networking are a special law 
all to their own I will never understand.

Basically, you need to have permission. 

This is either explicit permission – a banner or other means categorically states that you can use the service. Or you 
need to have implied permission such as being a patron of the café in this example. 

Accessing the property of another always requires some for of permission of it is a trespass. There may be defences to 
the act of trespass which stop you getting into trouble, but it is still a trespass. An example, you see a fire and a 
person in a house. You break down the door and run in to get the person. You have technically committed a trespass – 
but the circumstances are such that the need overrides the trespass. The same goes for computers. I do not however see 
many cases (and have thus far seen none) where a computer break-in could be justified.

To use the property of another – this includes computers, the Internet pipe etc – you need to have “license” to do so. 
License is a legal word or art. It means that you have a right to use something. By default, you do not have a right to 
use another’s property. To do this, it must be licensed for your use. In the case of the café, the right to use the 
wireless pipe is contingent on being a customer or patron of the café. 

This is not anything new. The common law of license goes back in this form to the 16th Century. Statute just makes it 
easier to have the police understand the law. The simple thing is that you are doing something illegal any time you 
assume the rights of another without permission.


Using free wireless is illegal but not if there is a
message saying public then it is not. Maybe I am not seeing the whole
picture but I believe the burden of notification is on the owner/access
point. This is the case in most states. Using the articles example of a

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