Being a geek, and a developer/sysadmin by trade I sometimes forget how regular people’s brains work. I mean I sort of get that they view technology as magic that can only be understood by unattractive an unpopular people. That element of their belief system is clear to me. What I forget is that their whole world view is wrapped around and corrupted by their ignorance. For example this is a conversation I had with my co-worker the other day:
The moral of this story is that you should always encrypt your Wifi and set your ssid to be something like “fbi.gov” to scare away persistent bandwidth leeches. But that’s not really what I wanted to point at. Did you notice the following logic:
Downloading Movies == Theft
Using someone’s Wifi != Theft
That’s sort of backwards, isn’t it? Unlike copyright infringement which while morally reprehensible is definitely not theft (neither morally, legally or semantically) leeching on someones wireless connection can definitely be viewed as such. After all, there is a reason why we call it bandwidth theft. Most of us have unlimited bandwidth contracts with our ISP’s but in some parts of the world people still have theirs capped and metered and can’t go over some quota. Your connection would count against their quota and any overages would be paid out of their pockets. In the world of unlimited bandwidth there is no danger of incurring overage charges but you are still using bandwidth that someone else paid for without permission. If they are for example trying to play Counterstrike online, while you are downloading bunch of torrents you will doubtlessly clog up their intraweb pipes (internet is not a truck kids!) and introduce lag.
In other words, leeching is much more like theft than copyright infringement could ever be because you are actually depriving someone of something they paid for. It is still not actuall theft in a legal sense of course. It probably falls under “unauthorized access to a computer system” but IANAL. Perhaps a real lawyer can clarify this for us. Either way, I personally view it as much more serious and actually damaging activity. While the concept of “lost sales” is a complete fiction, loss of bandwidth due to a leeching neighbor is very real, and very tangible (page load time, lag and etc).
The polite thing to do is to knock on your neighbor’s door and tell them they have an unsecured Wifi network. I know there are people out there who actually purposefully leave their networks open, and do not mind sharing their connection (Bruce Scheiner is one of them). Most people however simply are too stupid to set it up properly. But if you help them out and set it up for them they may be nice enough to let you leech until you get your own internet connection, or maybe will be happy to simply split the bill with you.
It seems that the cancerous message spread by RIAA and MPAA is actually working. People have been brainwashed. My coworker for example thinks nothing of leeching Wifi from their neighbor (a real person they see almost every day) but balks at infringing copyright of some huge corporation. Sigh… I remember a time when it was the other way around and people would stick it to the man, and help their neighbors. I guess that this time has passed and we have other priorities now. Priorities such as OBEY, CONSUME, WATCH TV, BUY, SUBMIT, STAY ASLEEP… ;)