I’ve often wondered what would happen if I went into my local coffee shop and just fired up the laptop without buying a cup of coffee.
Now I know.
A man in Clark County Washington has been charged with “theft of services” for allegedly using a coffee shop’s free wireless Internet service without buying anything at the shop. His name is Alexander Smith, of nearby Battle Ground, and he is charged with parking his truck in the parking lot next to the Brewed Awakenings coffee shop for more than three months, piggybacking off the shop’s “free” Wi-Fi without ever buying so much as a cup of coffee.
Is this a crime? Clark County law enforcement authorities seem to think so. The specific crime for which Smith was arrested is one that is described by a broad term. “Theft of services” has in the past meant stealing cable TV or leaving a restaurant without paying for the meal you ordered and ate. More to the point, people have also been prosecuted for stealing computer or network access without paying for it.
But this is something different. It’s free wireless Internet access. Or is it?
Brewed Awakenings manager Emily Pranger is on the record against Smith, saying that he doesn’t buy anything and so shouldn’t be able to use the Internet service.
For the record, sheriff’s deputies did ask Smith to stop “stealing” the free Wi-Fi and took him into custody only when he refused to comply with their request.
The case is ongoing …