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UK Bill Would Outlaw Open Wi-Fi 250

Posted by Soulskill
from the talking-and-listening-are-next dept.
suraj.sun writes with this excerpt from ZDNet about another troubling aspect of the UK's much-maligned Digital Economy Bill: "The government will not exempt universities, libraries and small businesses providing open Wi-Fi services from its Digital Economy Bill copyright crackdown, according to official advice released earlier this week. This would leave many organizations open to the same penalties for copyright infringement as individual subscribers, potentially including disconnection from the Internet, leading legal experts to say it will become impossible for small businesses and the like to offer Wi-Fi access. 'This is going to be a very unfortunate measure for small businesses, particularly in a recession, many of whom are using open free Wi-Fi very effectively as a way to get the punters in. Even if they password protect, they then have two options — to pay someone like The Cloud to manage it for them, or take responsibility themselves for becoming an ISP effectively, and keep records for everyone they assign connections to, which is an impossible burden for a small cafe,' said Lilian Edwards, professor of Internet law at Sheffield University." Relatedly, an anonymous reader passes along a post which breaks down the question of whether using unprotected Wi-Fi is stealing.
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UK Bill Would Outlaw Open Wi-Fi

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  • First (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    First post. I've given my credit card details, scan of passport and my fingerprint to the clerk. Can I have WiFi now please?
  • Depends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hedwards (940851) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:26AM (#31305950)
    It really depends upon how it is that they do it, but at the end of the day open access points aren't any more the cause of infringement than ones that one pays for. At any rate people shouldn't have truly open access points to begin with. I know that with PF you can set things up to redirect to a log in page that has them agree to the rules. You could always require they put some form of identification in which should get you off the hook for making it anonymous. Unless the new requirements would require an ID check. Which I'm sure there's some reasonable way of dealing with.

    This is mostly just an excuse to shake people down for their change than actually fight any kind of real problem.
    • by mangu (126918) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:09PM (#31306298)

      At any rate people shouldn't have truly open access points to begin with

      Would you allow us to have open streets, sir, or should we wear tags [wikimedia.org] to identify us while we walk outside?

    • Re:Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:35PM (#31306548) Journal

      >>>people shouldn't have truly open access points to begin with.

      Why not? If I want to open my kitchen and give away free food, I can. If I want to buy a bunch of blank CDs and hand-out copies of Ubuntu Linux, I can. Why can't I give-away free access to Wi-Fi in my home or restaurant?

      No reason I can think of, except to limit free speech/protest and give the government even more control over public policy (i.e. push their one true agenda).

      Alex Jones the Nutter was just discussing this on his radio show: http://yp.shoutcast.com/sbin/tunein-station.pls?id=175591 [shoutcast.com] - about how Microsoft, corporations, and government are colluding to silence the people and control what we hear or read.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Mister Whirly (964219)

        If I want to open my kitchen and give away free food, I can.

        As long as you pass a health inspection to make sure you aren't going to kill or make ill any large groups of people.

        If I want to buy a bunch of blank CDs and hand-out copies of Ubuntu Linux, I can.

        Because the authors allow you to do so.

        Why can't I give-away free access to Wi-Fi in my home or restaurant?

        You can! Nobody is going to put out a firmware revision that works on all wireless access points that will not allow them to have open access. However if you do chose to provide access as such, know that you are responsible for what happens.

        Say you got a land line, and ran an extension phone out to the sidewalk in front of your house for anyone to us

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by davester666 (731373)

          No, they aren't say they won't pay for access to the service. They are saying they shouldn't be held responsible for HOW it's used.

          A more correct example would be:

          Say you got a land line, and ran an extension phone out to the sidewalk in front of your house for anyone to use. Somebody calls in a bomb threat using the extension. Should you be responsible for the bomb threat? If you should be responsible, how is it different than from calling using a public telephone?

        • >>>>>If I want to open my kitchen and give away free food, I can.
          >>
          >>As long as you pass a health inspection to make sure you aren't going to kill or make ill any large groups of people.

          Oh really???
          Burn in hell tyrant.
          I will exercise my right (9th)
          to give away food to anyone I please,
          because it is my Christian duty (1st) to help others.

          If you issue illegal laws to stop me (10th)
          and send police to perform an illegal seizure (4th)
          I will shoot you full of holes (2nd),
          abolish your gov

          • First: this law is in the UK, not the US, so your whole string of constitutional references is pretty irrelevant.

            Second: I've worked in soup kitchens. If you're handing out good to friends, it's not a big deal. People can reasonably understand the risks. But when you're setting up a soup kitchen, the very scale of it makes it a business, you're running a restaurant and come under various safety regulations. If you don't keep your kitchen clean and the food reasonably fresh, you can kill the people who recei

          • Yeah, that is a nice theory, but try opening a kitchen and serving food to the public without having an inspection by the health department. I worked as a chef for years and we had a hard time even legally giving away food to charities. If we give them food, and they heat it improperly or do not refrigerate properly etc., we would be liable for any illness/death/monetary loss suffered by anyone eating the food, even if it was 100% not our fault. (Same reason it is illegal to bring outside food into establis
      • Can't have that.

        At least, that's what'll end up on your criminal record.

         

      • Putting the conspiracy nut jobs aside for a second there is a reason why they don't want open WiFi. It's so that they can send a bill if someone pirates something on your internet connection.

        You would be perfectly free to give away Wi-Fi but if someone downloaded a movie and you were sued you couldn't use the defense "oh well I have an open wifi connection so it must have been someone else.

        It's a no-win scenario. If they simply try to sue the owner of the internet connection then you are facing an uphill

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          >>>You would be perfectly free to give away Wi-Fi but if someone downloaded a movie and you were sued you couldn't use the defense "oh well I have an open wifi connection so it must have been someone else.

          So?

          People come-and-go from public buildings all the time. If a product goes missing, do they hold the owner of the building responsible? No. They figure it must be one of the anonymous persons. - What they are doing here is the equivalent of demanding you show an ID every time you come-and-go

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:26AM (#31305952)

    Bars were outlawed. The only place that could serve drinks were private clubs.

    So I paid a $7 "membership fee" at the door and had a great time. First drink was free!

    To paraphrase the philosopher Ian Malcom, "Life finds a way".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MonTemplar (174120)

      Not really anologous to what TFA is dealing with - at least with booze, you've already paid for it once you're in the club. And there's not much prospect of the Government requiring the club to keep records of all the drinks that punters bought, mainly due to the fact that drinks manufacturers and pub / club chains would a) balk at such regulation of their trade, and b) lobby the Government to water down or drop any such proposal.

      -MT.

  • Ad-hoc too? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:27AM (#31305958)

    What happens when your diners start sharing across an ad-hoc wireless network in your shop? Are you obliged to jam signals?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, that would be illegal. I think the first point here is that the government wants to remove their responsibility for wrongdoings.
      More importantly, while I really doubt they would go around disconnecting everyone with open wifi, it gives them a nice
      convenient law they can use to harass, arrest, detain and threaten people with. Dont forget every crime in the UK can get you
      arrested and as it involves more than one person, you'd probably fall under the SOCA legislation meaning they can detain you
      for upto 2

  • Srsly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lorenlal (164133) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:28AM (#31305968)

    Yet another case where elected officials aren't really thinking, or they don't understand what they're doing.

    1) They think everyone can still have free Wi-Fi in public places, but it'll be "protected."
    or
    2) Someone's paying them off... Maybe the ISPs since they can swoop in and say, "Hey! Even though you can't offer free (beer) wi-fi, we can help you out! We can set it up so any BT subscriber can use your wi-fi, and that's like X% of the population. That'll be almost as good."

    Or, it could just be innocent rampant stupidity.

    • Re:Srsly? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MonTemplar (174120) <slashdot@alanralph.co.uk> on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:39AM (#31306050) Homepage Journal

      ISPs hate these proposals even more than we do, since the Government wants them to keep records of Internet traffic for all of their subscribers - that means increased costs to the ISP, which will eventually be passed on to subscribers, meaning fewer subscribers, and possibly even fewer ISPs in the long run as the smaller ones struggle to stay profitable.

      As for "protected" WiFi, the protection appears to be mainly against copyright owners having to do any work to prove that someone somewhere has illegally downloaded and/or distributed some of their work.

      -MT.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bert64 (520050)

        The large ISPs that can afford to implement the recording are more than happy... Economies of scale mean they can implement the recording far more cheaply than the smaller players, many of whom will simply go bust leaving the big players to soak up the extra customers.
        And when they charge extra for the recording, they don't have to spend all the extra revenue on actually implementing it... Much of that will go to profit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MonTemplar (174120)

          True. Here in the UK, both British Telecom (BT) and VirginMedia will complain but will be probably be able to shoulder the burden anyway. And, as the Phorm debacle revealed, they are not overly concerned about the privacy of their customers...

          -MT.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gblackwo (1087063)
        You MIGHT be right in the US, but in the UK the "free" wifi router/modem that comes with your service has a key automatically, which is usually on a sticker on the back of the device. I'm not sure if you can change the default settings but most people just plug them in and turn them on like an appliance. Hence most of the wifi networks I see in the UK have default serial number type ssids that came with their default keys. It is way way easier to find open wifi in America where everyone owns a "netgear" or
        • FWIW, I am in the UK. Admittedly, I first set up our wireless network back in late 2002, before ISPs started to support such things. Yes, it had WEP security, but at the time that was the best we had. I changed to a newer router a few year back, and we're now on WPA2.

          I've heard about these hardwired ISP-provided routers / modems - wasn't aware that they were so widespread now. I can sort of understand why the ISPs go down this route, but it seems to be saving on customer support at the expense of leaving th

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yet another case where elected officials aren't really thinking, or they don't understand what they're doing.

      Who said anything about elected officials? This bill has been put together by (the unelected) Baron Mandelson (AKA The Prince of Darkness) who is a life peer sitting in the House of Lords, currently First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council. (Never ever confuse the British system of government with democracy as they are two very different things).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrphoton (1349555)
      All correct except your use of the word 'elected'. Lord Mandelson who is heading this bill is not elected at all. He is a Lord and that apparently means it is ok for him impose rules on us. Secondly, Brown our prime minister was never elected as prime minister, he just 'took over' after Blair stood down. So in short this is a c**p bill imposed my unelected morons. However, on the up side there will be a general election with in three months, so it will probably never reach the statute books.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      As a network administrator for a small local ISP I have to say I would absolutely loathe this proposal. I can't even begin to imagine the infrastructure and management nightmare to do something like this at all of our locations.

      So OK, you use encryption for your APs, which you then have to give the password out to your customers making the wireless in effect public anyway.

      Or do you propose we only use WPA2-EAP? So what, we have to not only manage each account individually, but I assume we have to do personn

    • Or, it could just be innocent rampant stupidity.

      With politicians, never attribute to stupidity that which can be adequately explained by malice.

  • "shut it down, shut it all down, forever"

    • by zoloto (586738)
      Great movie. And just like the ending they'll erase our history and we will forget who we are, or where we came from.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:47AM (#31306122) Homepage

    > "This seems almost unprecedented to me, for a government document."

    This seems quite ordinary to me, for a government document.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:49AM (#31306138)
    Open wi-fi should be as legal as me, on my own property giving away things for free. No one would care if I was giving out free water bottles on a hot day, nor would anyone care if I was giving away books for free, but when I'm giving away something in essence unlimited* it becomes bad?

    *yes, it does increase bandwidth and would slow down your internet use, but how often is someone going to notice that?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd care if you giving away those free water bottles or books lead to an increase in traffic in my residential neighborhood. Or even just at inconvenient hours of the night.

      Believe it or not, what happens on your property can bleed over into mine. Maybe you're a reasonable chap, and will stop doing things when you realize that the things you do bother me...or maybe you're not.

      But sometimes across a whole country it helps to have some laws.

      So far, you haven't articulated a good reason against this one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)
        Because we all know that there are always loads of cars in front of people's houses that have free wi-fi....

        It doesn't happen. In fact, one of my neighbors runs a open wi-fi network, I've noticed absolutely no more traffic near their house or in the neighborhood since they started doing it.

        As for any interference, it doesn't happen there are a multitude of channels and a nearly infinite amount of SSDs you can use for your own access points.

        But sometimes across a whole country it helps to have some laws.

        Not when it leads to a loss of liberty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BradleyUffner (103496)

      No one would care if I was giving out free water bottles on a hot day, nor would anyone care if I was giving away books for free, but when I'm giving away something in essence unlimited* it becomes bad?

      I 100% agree with you, but I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here.

      Once you start handing out child pornography it's bad.

      • First you have to realize we have an irrational fear of "ZOMG CP!!!11!!1" secondly, it would actually -help- the real problem (children being abused) to distribute CP for free. Why? Because CP is so restricted people pay a lot of money to the people who are abusing the children which they use to abuse more children. If you can stop them at the source, they have no money, no market and it dries up. But of course, we don't see the rational side of things. If I see a picture of someone dead, or injured do they
        • by Phroggy (441)

          First you have to realize we have an irrational fear of "ZOMG CP!!!11!!1" secondly, it would actually -help- the real problem (children being abused) to distribute CP for free. Why? Because CP is so restricted people pay a lot of money to the people who are abusing the children which they use to abuse more children. If you can stop them at the source, they have no money, no market and it dries up. But of course, we don't see the rational side of things. If I see a picture of someone dead, or injured do they die again or are injured again? No, it happened once. Same thing with CP.

          The issue is a bit more complicated than that, sorry. You're making the assumption that the people who produce child pornography are doing so for financial reasons, and that if they can't find anyone to buy it, they'll stop abusing children. Somehow I don't think that's true. We're living in the age of YouTube; it's not like producing a video is a prohibitively expensive proposition these days.

    • But, it might be a violation of your TOS.

    • by DaveGod (703167)

      You've actually given an argument in favour there. If you hand out bottles of water you become as liable for them as a retail store. You also become liable for anything that happens to anyone on your property, as a retail store would. Letting the neighbours use your pool? Better make sure you have the right signs and fencing up.

      But there is the key difference that the legislation is protecting nobody on your property, it favours a third party. A more appropriate analogy is to say that it is the equivalent

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:54AM (#31306180)

    Yeah, not only a bad idea, but how the hell are you gonna enforce it? I mean seriously, anybody driven down around a couple of square blocks in Downtown, Anywhere with a sniffer lately? What, at least 40 or 50 APs show up, most of which are unsecure?

    Heh, if they do have some sort of WiFi goon squad running around with a scanner, one could keep them busy for a while with FakeAP...

  • Of course using unprotected WiFi isn't stealing. Public wifi is generally unprotected, and using it isn't stealing.

    The point should instead be, perhaps, whether using unprotected WiFi without permission is stealing.

    But then, I suppose, that ultimately amounts to whether or not using anybody else's WiFi without permission, whether or not they had it protected, is stealing.

    Because the measure of someone's ability to access the facilities should not be an indicator of whether or not they are allowed to

    • More like "Offtopic".

      The parent post has nothing to do with the article. The law being discussed would make owners of open Wi-Fi networks responsible for any copyright infringement done by users of their networks, unless can identify the user responsible. The parent is blathering about whether or not unauthorized access to unsecured Wi-Fi access should be called "stealing". By the way, it's "Unauthorized access", we have different words for different things for a reason. You could also call it "trespassing"

    • by bazorg (911295)

      One could offer the point that an owner's failure to protect their WiFi from public use should be an indicator that it is intended for public use, but officially speaking, no real protocol for such an assumption actually exists

      .

      From the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bothy [wikipedia.org] :

      A bothy is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge. It was also a term for basic accommodation, usually for gardeners or other workers on an estate. Bothies are to be found in remote, mountainous areas of Scotland, northern England and Wales.

      ie: yes, it is normal that people share useful things for no reward and without advance warning. I believe that in mountainous places this is very usual.

  • Brown envelopes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:05PM (#31306266) Journal
    I'm sure if you paid Peter Mandelson* some brown envelope money then he would amend the law. But as it is, I think he's more interested in the kind of money that media moguls have when he goes mixing with them on yachts in the South of France for a "friendly chat." The man and the current UK government are evil. * the chief architect of this whole bastard Digital Economy law
  • All-fronts attack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:06PM (#31306274)

    What's really needed is a multi-national organization to address what's clearly an all-out assault on internet freedom by a variety of vested interests. Governments, patent trolls, multi-national entertainment corporations...all of them are pushing in the same direction, and there doesn't seem to be any unified push back.

    Let's be clear: I'm not alleging a conspiracy. What I'm saying is that these groups all know where their best interests lie (screwing the consumer/citizen/user/whatever) and they sense that if they don't get their boot on our throat, no matter how badly they have to bend the various constitutions of the democracies they use for cover, the opportunity will slip away. They aren't about to let that happen if they can possibly help it.

  • ...if if instead of making open Wi-Fi illegal, they instead make the owner of any any open Wi-Fi access point liable for any illegal activity that is detected on their network, whether or not they knew about the activity.

    Making open WiFi itself illegal in what is otherwise a relatively free nation is just so lacking in even the slightest bit of thought into the matter that it defies all attempts to logically rationalize it. I'm speechless at the idea that the concept could even actually make it as far a

    • If you read the article rather than the summary you would find out that they are in fact going to do what you said. You can have an open access point but you will be liable for everything that goes through it unless you keep logs tied to a verified indentity recording everything that person does.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        I had read the article... it appeared to me that they were making the case that public wifi would be illegal, without exception. I admit it's possible I had misread it, however... I'll review it again.
    • So you advocate the nazist approach. Wonderful!
  • Complementing the story about Passive-Aggresive wifi Hotspots [slashdot.org], the new trend could putting them locked with password, and naming them ThePasswordIsXYZ9923. They are not open, but whoever wants to use them will be able to do it.
  • Ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:18PM (#31306398)

    The government have totally lost the plot. I'll be so glad when BRrown and his morons get voted out in May.

    • Unfortunately the other option isn't very good. Maybe the Lib Dems might be the best option but it seems very unlikely that they will win.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheLink (130905)
        > Maybe the Lib Dems might be the best option but it seems very unlikely that they will win.

        So what? The alternatives don't have to win. They just have to start gaining enough share.

        Then other voters might go "hey they might have a chance the next round", and if they agree, actually vote for them the next round.

        And the winning party might also go "uh oh, they might actually have a chance the next round, maybe we should be slightly more like them".

        Otherwise the option is for the stupid sheep to just keep
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:19PM (#31306408) Homepage Journal

    There, its secure :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Every call will be logged, every transaction filed, what you do, where you go, who you see and what you think will be traceable. You will be watched, profiled, targeted, and the number plate of your vehicle registered at each motorway intersection.

    There will be no cheating and you will do what you are told - though to be fair, for the milch cows amongst us that will not be a problem.

    The UK government introduced the quaintly named. "Care in the community" in order to allow them to cut costs by dumping people

  • I don't get why slashdot made this 1.5 articles, as it makes discussion of this other article semi-offtopic, but:

    The guy may have some decent points, but other than mentioning a counter-argument in order to then tear it apart, he has zero balance to his post, which makes it not so much a thorough evaluation of the issue as much as a vent for someone with an ax to grind. The part that I really didn't agree with is how he goes on about how people get enough warnings to use password protection and whatnot t
  • very british (Score:3, Insightful)

    by molecular (311632) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:33PM (#31306532)

    * Shut down the last hiding-place. Anonymity be gone.

    * Make encryption illegal. No Secrets.

    * Make people sign every ip-packet with their government-issued key and make ISPs drop all unsigned packets. Total accountability.

      => Everyone secure beneath watchfull eyes [wired.com] (especially our children)

    creepy!

    • by horza (87255)

      The government has already introduced a bill mandating you lodge all your private encryption keys with the government. It was called the Key Escrow Bill introduced by the Conservatives. Labour pledged to throw it out in their manifesto, then when elected promptly tried to steam-roller it into law. Headed by numerous ministers (off the top of my head, Mandelson, Hewitt, Straw) it was eventually watered
      down into RIPA.

      The only EU country that made encryption illegal AFAIK is France, until they found the States

  • I don't get it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geegel (1587009) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:42PM (#31306620)

    What's to stop coffee shops from setting a password protected wifi spot and then putting a big poster with the password on it?

    • Lawyers and money, as with so many other things.

      You CAN set up a free WiFi network under this legislation, but you are responsible for what happens on the network. If somebody downloads child porn then you take the rap for it...unless you can prove who they are, that they did it, and that they did it against the T&C they agreed to. The point is that the onus is on the provider not the user, and the provider frequently can't afford even the threat of a lawsuit, let alone actually losing one.

      It's
  • Which idiots have still not got round to throwing this out? I hope they have a really good excuse.
  • Seems like this law could be easily rendered null and void through mass civil disobedience on the part of the small business owners. If one person or a small few break the law, it is a crime whereas if many break the law and do it as part of an organized group, it is a call for change. It will take some bravery for people to thumb their noses at government. Free WiFi is almost everywhere in the states and there is no definitive research to suggest that an open WiFi access point is responsible for more cy
    • Or various industries will just have a larger pool of victims to work from. I'm sure they would rather take a small business to court than an individual teenager. A business at least has assets that can be taken away.

  • cost/benefit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jirka (1164)

    Ignoring any moral arguments against these laws, did anyone actually do the analysis of the cost vs. benefits? I mean these laws have direct costs for 1) ISPs 2) small businesses/libraries/etc...3) the increased costs to the state for enforcing such laws. There will be indirect costs for 4) all internet users as the cost of connection is raised. Finally, this will mean loss of connectivity, either in certain contexts or simply due to rising costs hence there will be a cost 5) the economy as a whole.

    Alrig

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