By Pio Szamel
Court Finds Warrant Unnecessary for Tracking of Unauthorized WiFi User
A federal district court has ruled that law enforcement do not need to obtain a warrant in order to track down unauthorized users of an unsecured WiFi account, reports Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy. After tracking a child pornography suspect to an IP address associated with a Comcast account, Pennsylvania State Police discovered that their suspect was not the Comcast customer but rather a neighbor mooching off the customer’s unsecured WiFi network. With the permission of the customer, they used free software and a directional antenna to identify the apartment containing the suspect’s computer and obtain a search warrant. In the subsequent criminal proceedings, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence against him on the grounds that tracking down his computer constituted an illegal warrantless search, but Judge Joy Conti of the Western District of Pennsylvania disagreed, finding that the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because in connecting to the unauthorized wireless network he was voluntarily sending a signal to a third party. The Wall Street Journal has additional coverage, and the opinion can be found at the Volokh Conspiracy.
Republican Study Committee Releases, then Retracts Report Calling for Copyright Reform
The Republican Study Committee, an influential caucus of more than 170 conservatives in the House of Representatives, released a report on Friday, November 17 calling for wide-reaching copyright reform but then retracted it the next day in response to pushback from content industry groups, reports Ars Technica. The report, preserved by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”), purported to debunk what it called “three myths” about copyright: that its purpose is to compensate copyright holders; that it represents free markets at work; and that the current copyright regime maximizes innovation and productivity. It went on to call for reductions in statutory damages and in the length of copyright terms, expansion of fair use, and punishment for false copyright claims. Techdirt hailed the original report, while EFF denounced its retraction as a retreat to a “reality-free zone.”
Texas Student Granted Temporary Restraining Order against School RFID Tracking Requirement
A state judge has granted a Texas high school student a temporary restraining order preventing her district from transferring her to another high school over her refusal to comply with a school-mandated RFID tracking program, reports Wired. John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas is piloting a program to track students with RFID tags embedded in student IDs in order to prove that they are present on campus, in the hope of winning more attendance-based state funding. The student in question objected to the program, claiming it violates her core religious beliefs, and publicized her objections in leaflets distributed to other students. When she was threatened with transfer out of the magnet school, she sued the school with the assistance of the Rutherford Institute. Her complaint can be found on the Rutherford Institute’s website; Ars Technica has further coverage.