Monday, March 14, 2011


From the country that already gave us legal downloading of copyrighted materials, we now have the legal borrowing of someone else's Wifi. Even if your neighbour's network has a password, it's still not illegal to hack into it in order to obtain free internet. After all, you're only hacking into the router, not into your neighbour's actual computer, and hacking into a router is not illegal under art. 138a of the Dutch Penal Code. And therefore, concludes the Court of Appeals in The Hague, while such "borrowing" may be socially undesirable, it is not currently made punishable by any provision in the Penal Code. (Though it may be an unlawful act under art. 6:162 Civil Code.)

And, just for the record, just like "borrowing" someone's bandwidth isn't punishable as hacking, it is also not punishable as theft. In a 2008 ruling, the Court of First Instance in Amsterdam already reached the fairly obvious conclusion that bandwidth is not a good - just like electricity isn't - and can therefore not be stolen.

UPDATE 2013: On 26 March 2013, the Dutch Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals' decision and held that a router can indeed be hacked even under the old version of the statute that was at issue here.

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