I was down in the Bay Area two weeks ago mostly in order to meet some people to discuss research. My first stop was at the Stanford School of Law where I was hoping to get some more literature on the legal aspects of telecommunication laws related to WiFi. After spending a couple of hours at the library, I (and the librarian) figured that the information I was looking for was not yet publicly available.

My goal was to find as much information as possible on the case Richard Dinon vs Benjamin Smith III for WiFi trespassing (more info here or here). I believe this case is the first of the kind where somebody get sued for trespassing because he is using somebody else open WiFi connection without permission. The case may be still in progress or has been settled but there has apparently been no update available anywhere since last July.

I was also hoping to find more regulation and legal literature about wireless networking but it looks like I already found most of the ones specifically related to WiFi (there is not that much yet).

Since I was on site, I passed by the Center for Internet and Society to see if I could get some more information. I ended getting an appointment with Professor Lawrence Lessig, who gave me some really good pointers and was especially helpful in sorting through some of the issues and reducing the complexity of my project.

One of the problem I was facing was: how can I design a system where people can retrieve information about whether or not they are allowed to connect to a wireless network while they are offline. The easy way felt like a Catch 22: To know if you were allowed to connect, you would have to connect and get the information from the Internet. Therefore, you could possibly be breaking the law for the sole purpose to know if what you are doing (or planning to do) is legal.

But apparently if the intent and only purpose of the initial connection was to retrieve information on your right to connect then this would not be considered illegal. Professor Lessig recommended me to read Order without Law : How Neighbors Settle Disputes which should give me a better understanding of how this would work.

He also recommended me to look into RDF and the InfoCard research on an identity metasystem to use in my design.

So , even if I didn’t have time to really visit the rest of the Stanford campus, the trip was more than worth it.

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Stanford Campus – Flickr Album