Brian Tanner was parked outside his local public library in Palmer, Alaska, using their free wifi, when police confiscated his laptop. It’s true that he was using it to check in on his Internet-based game, Conquer Club (similar to Risk) – but it’s also true that Brian Tanner, who is 21, is a moderator for the Conquer Club portal, and so it’s not a case of some teenager with an Internet gaming addiction.
And yes, it’s true that Tanner had been told by the police once before to not park outside the library and use their free wifi (but why?), but it’s also true that he was welcome to use it while inside the library – which he was often – and the library was closed. Why shouldn’t he have used it?
More importantly, why should the police have confiscated his laptop? Should they have?
This is similar to the case of Alex Eric Smith, of Vancounver, Washington, who was charged with theft of services for using a coffee shop’s wifi out in their parking lot. In fact, Smith ended up pleading guilty to trespassing, although not to theft of services.
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Where it’s different, however, is that in Smith’s case he was in the parking lot of a private coffee shop, using their wifi which they have for customers. In Tanner’s case, he was in the parking lot of the public library – a place which he in fact patronizes – using the public library’s wifi.
According to the police, Tanner had been told the day before to stop using the library’s wifi because it was, quote, “theft of services.” When Tanner returned the next day to the scene of the “crime” and again used the public library’s free wifi, the police took action. Why?
According to Palmer police Lt. Tom Remaley, “It was kind of like, ‘Well gee whiz, come on.’ ”
Wow, articulate police force they have up there in Palmer, Alaska, eh? And sound logic and reasoning!
Remaley explained that they confiscated Tanner’s laptop “in order to inspect what he may have been downloading,”, although as of the writing of this article, they had still not inspected Tanner’s laptop as they had still not applied for (let alone received) a warrant.
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Of course, in the meantime, Tanner is out his laptop.
Says Tanner, in a fit of jovial braggadocio on the Conquer Club forums, “I did it all for the free advertising. I got ConquerClub in the papers, and a bunch of new members hopefully that upgraded to premium.”
But we noted the smiley wink there. And even if it were true, it doesn’t matter why he did it – what matters is that he had his laptop confiscated by police because he was sitting outside the public library using their free wifi.
So, what do you think? Right, or wrong?
No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free? Thank you!
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