Man’s Laptop Confiscated by Police Because He Used Free Wifi Outside Public Library

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  • Man’s Laptop Confiscated by Police Because He Used Free Wifi Outside Public Library

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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Man’s Laptop Confiscated by Police Because He Used Free Wifi Outside Public Library

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?

  
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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!

Man’s Laptop Confiscated by Police Because He Used Free Wifi Outside Public Library

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11 Replies to “Man’s Laptop Confiscated by Police Because He Used Free Wifi Outside Public Library”

  1. I know this is over 2 years late but BLightnin you should read better… In the article it clearly says that he is a regular at the library and the library has no problems with this guy using the net. Just the cops do…

  2. That’s the problem with our society: too many people trying to get something for free! And not all the details of the arrest or the reasons for it are included in this story, so it’s not really fair to judge the police department. And I’m sure the police officer who was quoted actually said more than what was included in the story. Not all police are morons, morons!

  3. Maybe, instead of requesting a driver’s license, a library card would have been a better call. :)

  4. Just how is accessing a public library’s free wi-fi stealing if its an open access point? In our town the library is part of the city government. I don’t think the police had any right to confiscate the laptop and the man should sue the department. This is just plain wrong.

  5. Why was the library’s wi-fi on after hours?

    Does the library have a policy against using their connection after hours? or outside the building?

    And the libertarian in me has to ask: How does a memeber of the public tresspass on publicly owned property? And (as Phibber noted above),lacking any complaint from the library, under what legal theory was the laptop confiscated?

    This sounds like sactimony under color of law than a crime.

    Finally…I also remember that Linus Torvalds was too warm and lazy to shag his ass to the library (!), and created Linux so he could stay warm.

  6. I find the lack of any complaint on the part of the library regarding Tanner’s usage of their WiFi connection to speak volumes.

    Generally, (at least where I live) the public libraries are private institutions and not part of the municipality. This means that the police w/o cause entered private property and w/o a complaint from the property owner arrested Tanner for violating a law that to my knowledge is inferred at best and an extreme gray area to say the least!

    I hope he sues the pants off The Palmer Alaska Police department and the town. Considering the level of verbal eloquence possessed by Lt. Tom Remaley I doubt he’ll have any problem proving wrongful arrest.

    Maybe then with the proceeds from the lawsuit he can afford his own High Speed access

  7. Now, let me get this straight, for instance, if a court order was received by the police department to free someone in custody, they have the right NOT to? Just what part of the word free do the officers have trouble understanding??? Sheesh!!!

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