Friday, January 14, 2011

If You Don't Believe it is Theft, Then it Must Not Be!

Interesting opinion piece over at the NYT, by a teacher, who pirated the Internet for years from her neighbors' unsecured networks. There's a word for a person like this, but I can't quite put my finger ion it.

It may have been unfair, but I don’t believe I was stealing: the owners’ leaving their networks password-free was essentially a gift, an ethereal gesture of kindness.

Really? And if your neighbors had left their doors unlocked, would you feel free to raid the 'fridge, thinking it was an ethereal gesture of free food?

She says she did "freelance work from home", applied to graduate schools, paid her taxes online, streamed new episodes of “Friday Night Lights” each evening for a whole winter, reply to e-mails, video-chatted with my sister...until the neighbor "pulled the plug" by securing their network.

Sometimes I’d imagine my anonymous benefactors... thinking, “Well, I have Internet to spare.” And, really, who doesn’t? Home wireless networks can usually support five or more computers, yet there are only about 1.4 computers per American household.

Oh. So, as long as your neighbor has something in abundance, you can take it without asking for it? There's a great, if obvious, line in The Rocketeer, where the hero's much put upon assistant tells him, "If you "borrow" something without asking, that's stealing!"

And then the author slips in this bit of fluff at the end:
Perhaps the solution is a simple, old-fashioned gesture. Just knock on a neighbor’s door, and ask if she might be able to spare some wireless.

Read the piece for yourself, and see if there is the slightest indication that she ever asked permission to use any of their bandwidth? And some of her activities were real bandwidth hogs: she was streaming video and having video chats. Did it never occur to her that while she was enjoying herself at the neighbors' expense, they may have been putting up with slower downloads and less performance than they paid for?

I don't want to accuse her of hypocrisy, (Editor's note: Yes he does), but I'd be willing to bet that the good Ms. Rubenstein doesn't have a wireless network, and if she does, it has a password protecting it.

BTW, The word you are searching for is "leech".

H/T Closet Conservative

Cross posted at LCR.


  1. Okay, I am going to play both sides of this issue. First, yes it is stealing if you pirate your neighbors wifi. Second, if you don't secure your wifi don't be surprised with it is pirated.

  2. When I was a kid, I had the following drilled into me.

    1. Is it yours? (No)
    2. Did you ask permission of the owner? (No)
    3. Did the owner give you permission? (No)

    Then don't f***ing touch it!

    As an adult, I am surprised at how often I have had to use those same three questions on other adults. Though they didn't like it and were rather offended at the treatment and tone, they were much more respectful of both mine and other's property afterwards.

  3. If she did freelance work from home, then I take it she profited from "borrowing" her neighbors unused bandwidth, and apparently didn't even offer the neighbor part of her profit.

    What's the biologic term for an organism that feeds off of it's host and gives nothing in return?...Oh yeah, a parasite.

  4. CS: Agree on both points.
    Sparky: SO simple even a child can understand it! Who knew?

    spart: Yeah. Parasite works, too!

    Plus, she was depriving the ISP the revenue they rightfully should have received from her, which could have been invested in upgrading and upkeep of the system.

  5. Theft is such a crass word. Never say "steal"- it's called liberating. She was just liberating some WiFi.

  6. Mrs. C: Are you telling us you're a "liberated" woman?


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