The mesh organization will be a 501(c)3 but will not own the mesh routers. The mesh hardware will be owned by the community that makes up the mesh.
We're asking node owners to share their Internet connections with the mesh (if they have Internet). This poses two potential problems:
- Legal: Is the node owner liable if mesh users conduct illegal activity over the node owners' Internet connection?
- Terms of service: Some ISPs disallow sharing of Internet connections in their terms of service
The EFF has already done the research on potential legal liability of Internet connection sharing. They have launched a campaign to encourage people to open their wireless access points, the Open Wireless Movement. From the website:
Will opening my network make me liable for others' illegal actions?
This one is a bit more complicated, but the short answer is, "We don't think so."
The EFF has more extensive information on this issue here.
In addition to the reassurances by the EFF, sudomesh provides an additional layer of legal protection. All Internet-bound traffic from the mesh network is routed through VPN servers owned and operated by sudomesh (we call them exit nodes). When law enforcement see illegal activity, the source IP address will be listed as operated by sudo mesh, so they will contact us first and we can likely stop most legal inquiries at this point. This means that node owners won't have to deal with things such as routine DMCA notices.
This system was copied from wlan slovenja, the Slovenia mesh group.
Terms of service
Some ISPs allow sharing of Internet access and others do not. We provide node owners with a list of local ISPs that are known to allow sharing of Internet access and advise them that some ISPs may not allow sharing. The worst case scenario here is that one or more users get their Internet disconnected for terms of service violation.
The ISPs in the East Bay that allow Internet Connection sharing (that we know of) are:
- MonkeyBrains wifi
- Sonic.net DSL - Policies
- LMI (Sonic.net reseller) DSL
- Netwood DSL
- Hughes Net Satellite Internet
The exit nodes will be owned by the 501(c)3.
With regards to running exit nodes, Noisebridge, another 501(c)3, already runs a Tor exit node which should be legally similar to a mesh exit node.
Some links of interest:
- NoiseTor wiki page
- NoiseTor website
- NoiseTor FAQ
- Tor Project's Legal FAQ
- Tor Project's Abuse FAQ
- Tor Project's DMCA Response Template
- NoiseTor how to deal with the FBI
- EFF's Tor legal FAQ
- EFF's list of Good ISPs
If nodes are not owned by an organization, then some other way of agreement of how nodes should be operated should be made. One approach is to see each node as being peered with others and create agreements about how the rules the traffic should go over those links. Another is to extend such agreement into a license and also add rules about how the nodes themselves should behave.