This article has been published in the hot-off-the-digital-press issue (vol 6 no 2 pp 355-376) of SCRIPTed: A Journal of Law & Technology, which as regular readers know is based at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law, and more specifically its research centre SCRIPT. The article is a version of a paper presented at the March 2009 conference, ‘Governance of New Technologies’. I’ll publish a post about the other papers in the journal tomorrow.

Access to the Internet through wireless access points (typically wifi routers) is both simple and common. In this paper, the legal restrictions on “sharing” an Internet connection in this way are assessed. Criminal offences that could apply to the use of open networks, such as dishonest use of a communications service or unauthorised access to a computer, are considered, as are issues of criminal and civil liability and terms of use affecting the owner of the router. It is suggested that there are advantages to sharing and that these provisions unnecessarily restrict the development of what would be of benefit to society. Furthermore, the problems encountered by proponents of municipal and community networks based on a collection of wireless access points, in terms of competition law but also other matters, are summarised. The paper concludes with an assessment of the links between the various aspects of wireless Internet policy, suggesting that it is necessary to recast relevant legal provisions so as to avoid granting disproportionate protection to Internet service providers (ISPs).

View the paper at SCRIPTed

Responses and coverage from:

University of East Anglia
Stewart Mitchell, PC Pro
Kimberley Howson, Top 10 Broadband
Brian Tinham, MC Solutions
ISP Review
Science Daily

Added Tuesday 18th September:
David Neal, The Inquirer