Discussing scanner over ham radio

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W9DTC

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I was listening to a couple of other hams discussing rules about what can be transmitted over ham radio. If I understood correctly, they determined that it was OK to discuss police/fire activity found posted online, but that is would NOT be OK to talk about information heard over a scanner. In particular, a third ham was asking about the policy/fire lights he had seen earlier in the day a few doors down from his house.

I jumped in to clarify my understanding of what rules might be broken by transmitting over ham radio information obtained by listening to a scanner... One of them indicated that it was an Indiana code that dictated as much. I looked for something, but couldn't find it. Of course, interferring with ongoing police activity would be prohibited... Also, I know that ham radio cannot be used to gather/transmitt news to third parties... But I'm still not clear why it wouldn't have been OK to answer the third ham's question if all the information I had was obtained via the scanner.

Any input would be apprecitated. Thanks!

p.s. I'm sure this question will be read by at least one of the ham's I was talking to... I don't want to give you the impression that I think you were/are wrong, I just want to fully understand so I don't accidently end up breaking any laws.
 

canav844

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There is some Federal law that might apply to the question as you asked it

United States Code: Title 18,CHAPTER 119—WIRE AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS INTERCEPTION AND INTERCEPTION OF ORAL COMMUNICATIONS | LII / Legal Information Institute
United States Code: Title 18,2511. Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited | LII / Legal Information Institute
(1) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter any person who—

(c) intentionally discloses, or endeavors to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subsection;

shall be punished as provided in subsection (4) or shall be subject to suit as provided in subsection (5).
Then the still allowed to listen to scanners in the first place part
(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person—
(i) to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;
(ii) to intercept any radio communication which is transmitted—
(I) by any station for the use of the general public, or that relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress;
(II) by any governmental, law enforcement, civil defense, private land mobile, or public safety communications system, including police and fire, readily accessible to the general public;
(III) by a station operating on an authorized frequency within the bands allocated to the amateur, citizens band, or general mobile radio services; or
(IV) by any marine or aeronautical communications system;
(3)
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection, a person or entity providing an electronic communication service to the public shall not intentionally divulge the contents of any communication (other than one to such person or entity, or an agent thereof) while in transmission on that service to any person or entity other than an addressee or intended recipient of such communication or an agent of such addressee or intended recipient.
(b) A person or entity providing electronic communication service to the public may divulge the contents of any such communication—
(i) as otherwise authorized in section 2511 (2)(a) or 2517 of this title;
(ii) with the lawful consent of the originator or any addressee or intended recipient of such communication;
(iii) to a person employed or authorized, or whose facilities are used, to forward such communication to its destination; or
(iv) which were inadvertently obtained by the service provider and which appear to pertain to the commission of a crime, if such divulgence is made to a law enforcement agency.
Here's the only IN IC I'm aware of that applies to scanners directly
Indiana Code 35-44-3
IC 35-44-3-12
Unlawful use of a police radio; exemptions; "police radio" defined
Sec. 12. (a) A person who knowingly or intentionally:
(1) possesses a police radio;
(2) transmits over a frequency assigned for police emergency purposes; or
(3) possesses or uses a police radio:
(A) while committing a crime;
(B) to further the commission of a crime; or
(C) to avoid detection by a law enforcement agency;
commits unlawful use of a police radio, a Class B misdemeanor.
(b) Subsection (a)(1) and (a)(2) do not apply to:
(1) a governmental entity;
(2) a regularly employed law enforcement officer;
(3) a common carrier of persons for hire whose vehicles are used in emergency service;
(4) a public service or utility company whose vehicles are used in emergency service;
(5) a person who has written permission from the chief executive officer of a law enforcement agency to possess a police radio;
(6) a person who holds an amateur radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission if the person is not transmitting over a frequency assigned for police emergency purposes;
(7) a person who uses a police radio only in the person's dwelling or place of business;
(8) a person:
(A) who is regularly engaged in newsgathering activities;
(B) who is employed by a newspaper qualified to receive

legal advertisements under IC 5-3-1, a wire service, or a licensed commercial or public radio or television station; and
(C) whose name is furnished by his employer to the chief executive officer of a law enforcement agency in the county in which the employer's principal office is located;
(9) a person engaged in the business of manufacturing or selling police radios; or
(10) a person who possesses or uses a police radio during the normal course of the person's lawful business.
(c) As used in this section, "police radio" means a radio that is capable of sending or receiving signals transmitted on frequencies assigned by the Federal Communications Commission for police emergency purposes and that:
(1) can be installed, maintained, or operated in a vehicle; or
(2) can be operated while it is being carried by an individual.
The term does not include a radio designed for use only in a dwelling.
As added by Acts 1977, P.L.342, SEC.1. Amended by P.L.162-1994, SEC.1.
Though depending upon what you do with what you hear, there are other statutes that I think would indirectly apply, but that's a different conversation based on your story as of now.

From what you gave us and how thick the federal law is written, I'm not sure if they've violated the letter of the law or not. I do make it a point not to talk about what I hear on the scanner in specific terms on the whole divulging of intercepted information thing.
 

W9DTC

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From reading the provided code, it seems clearly illegal to intercept and/or disclose wire, oral, or electronic communication… unless that information is transmitted over a system that is readily accessible to the general public (which is what we are talking about with regard to scanners). Therefore, listening to a scanner and disclosing (over whatever means desired: telephone, email, ham radio, etc.) what you hear there is legal. That is, unless you are providing an electronic communication service to the public (which is not what ham radio is).

IANAL, but this code doesn’t appear to limit the discussion by ham radio operators (as they are not providing a communication service to the public). Of course, if I transmitted to my buddy that I just heard the cops say they are coming to his house to serve a warrant, then I might be in violation of a different law by interfering with police activity… but if I hear over the scanner that a big wreck just happened on my buddy’s route home, I’d be fine telling him.

Am I missing something?
 

kadetklapp

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Weird. So I would be breaking the law if I relay an officer's report of a funnel cloud that I hear on the scanner to the net control operator during a severe weather net? Odd.
 

W9DTC

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Weird. So I would be breaking the law if I relay an officer's report of a funnel cloud that I hear on the scanner to the net control operator during a severe weather net? Odd.
This may be cut out by an 'immediate danger to human life and/or property' clause... but so far as I can tell, there isn't a restriction about talking about anything heard on the scanner (unless you end up interferring with police activity somehow).

Hopefully somebody can clarify further.
 

W9DTC

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Still hoping to get some good input on this question.
 

lep

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My not so humble opinion, you all have too much time on your hands to worry about such an obscure provision that may (or may not) be in either the Indiana or Federal code of regulations.Common sense still prevails among most charged with law enforcement. Too bad the interent had not been invented by ARPA when the discusions about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin were all the rage.
 

W9DTC

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My not so humble opinion, you all have too much time on your hands to worry about such an obscure provision that may (or may not) be in either the Indiana or Federal code of regulations.Common sense still prevails among most charged with law enforcement. Too bad the interent had not been invented by ARPA when the discusions about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin were all the rage.
Thanks for the input. While not helpful at all, it was still some input.

Cheers,
 

W9DTC

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Federal Law as per BOB W9RXR'S Post so "No".This is very clear and is spelled out word for word,Read the link W9RXR has posted.
Yes, W9NES. I read the code. I then presented what I understood from my reading thereof. Finally, I requested input on my interpretation. Can you please point to the specific clause I may have missed? I apologize, but I don't find the language exceedingly clear and am just trying to understand here, as I thought this forum was appropriate for discussion of this sort.
 

pliquett

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What it really boils down to is enforcement. Is anyone going to get fined or arrested? Probably not. What about truckers using 10meter radios to give "bear reports". I was recently pulled over by ISP and had a brand new Stryker 497HP strapped to the dash of my rig. Was it legal? No. Did he care? No. Point is a law without enforcement is useless. Forget the laws and codes and go with a little common sense and your personal code of ethics. Happy Holidays and enjoy tearing this apart;)
 

W9DTC

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What it really boils down to is enforcement. Is anyone going to get fined or arrested? Probably not. What about truckers using 10meter radios to give "bear reports". I was recently pulled over by ISP and had a brand new Stryker 497HP strapped to the dash of my rig. Was it legal? No. Did he care? No. Point is a law without enforcement is useless. Forget the laws and codes and go with a little common sense and your personal code of ethics. Happy Holidays and enjoy tearing this apart;)
Nothing to tear apart there. To me, however, it doesn't boil down to enforcement, or shouldn't anyhow. Of course, common sense must be my guide.

Merry Christmas!
 

canav844

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What it really boils down to is enforcement. Is anyone going to get fined or arrested? Probably not. What about truckers using 10meter radios to give "bear reports". I was recently pulled over by ISP and had a brand new Stryker 497HP strapped to the dash of my rig. Was it legal? No. Did he care? No. Point is a law without enforcement is useless. Forget the laws and codes and go with a little common sense and your personal code of ethics. Happy Holidays and enjoy tearing this apart;)
ISP is not the FCC, there are jurisdictional issues; and some of us would like to keep a distinction between the CB free-for-all and Amateur Radio; we don't want to go the way of GMRS, and worked hard for our licenses; wanting that we agree to respect federal law.

And repeating a tornado being reported by someone else that's not over a broad cast radio should not be done, and repeating others reports through multiple paths, or one report of your own through multiple paths, should have been spelled out in your NWS training as something NOT to do, because those come into the NWS as multiple reports from multiple sources and is assumed to be from multiple people; which adds much confusion to the process of sorting out what actually happened after the fact, especially if that report on the scanner was actually just a scary looking cloud and not a tornado, but that's a whole nother rant about storm spotting.

I'll reiterate
United States Code: Title 18,2511. Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited | LII / Legal Information Institute
(1) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter any person who—

(c) intentionally discloses, or endeavors to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subsection;

shall be punished as provided in subsection (4) or shall be subject to suit as provided in subsection (5).
And for good measure add the mentioned (4) and (5)
(4) (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection or in subsection (5), whoever violates subsection (1) of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
(b) Conduct otherwise an offense under this subsection that consists of or relates to the interception of a satellite transmission that is not encrypted or scrambled and that is transmitted— (i) to a broadcasting station for purposes of retransmission to the general public; or
(ii) as an audio subcarrier intended for redistribution to facilities open to the public, but not including data transmissions or telephone calls,
is not an offense under this subsection unless the conduct is for the purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain.

(5) (a) (i) If the communication is— (A) a private satellite video communication that is not scrambled or encrypted and the conduct in violation of this chapter is the private viewing of that communication and is not for a tortious or illegal purpose or for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private commercial gain; or
(B) a radio communication that is transmitted on frequencies allocated under subpart D of part 74 of the rules of the Federal Communications Commission that is not scrambled or encrypted and the conduct in violation of this chapter is not for a tortious or illegal purpose or for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private commercial gain,
then the person who engages in such conduct shall be subject to suit by the Federal Government in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(ii) In an action under this subsection— (A) if the violation of this chapter is a first offense for the person under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) and such person has not been found liable in a civil action under section 2520 of this title, the Federal Government shall be entitled to appropriate injunctive relief; and
(B) if the violation of this chapter is a second or subsequent offense under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) or such person has been found liable in any prior civil action under section 2520, the person shall be subject to a mandatory $500 civil fine.


(b) The court may use any means within its authority to enforce an injunction issued under paragraph (ii)(A), and shall impose a civil fine of not less than $500 for each violation of such an injunction.
 

W9DTC

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Doesn't section G (below) basically make this chapter irrelevant to the topic at hand?


(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person—
(i) to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;
(ii) to intercept any radio communication which is transmitted—
(I) by any station for the use of the general public, or that relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress;
(II) by any governmental, law enforcement, civil defense, private land mobile, or public safety communications system, including police and fire, readily accessible to the general public;
(III) by a station operating on an authorized frequency within the bands allocated to the amateur, citizens band, or general mobile radio services; or
(IV) by any marine or aeronautical communications system;
 

canav844

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Doesn't section G (below) basically make this chapter irrelevant to the topic at hand?
That's says you can listen to it and at least to not a lawyer me the other part is saying that you can't repeat it. Kinda like a movie ticket doesn't mean you can bring in a camcorder show the movie to your friends, not a perfect comparision, but it's not a post hoc, ergo porpter hoc
 

W9DTC

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That's says you can listen to it and at least to not a lawyer me the other part is saying that you can't repeat it. Kinda like a movie ticket doesn't mean you can bring in a camcorder show the movie to your friends, not a perfect comparision, but it's not a post hoc, ergo porpter hoc
Yes... I thought the same at first. But notice the language in (1c) that finishes with "in violation of this subsection". Because section (g) makes listening to police radio traffic NOT be a violation of 1, interception of police traffic is not subject to the disclosure rule.
 

W9DTC

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Ok Can you link to that so I can understand. The legal language provided already, word for word, seems clear enough, in favor of it being just fine.

Thanks for your contribution!!!
 
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