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Imagine a world like ours but where a temporary portal could be constructed between two different locations allowing people to simply walk between these two places with a single step.

Now imagine that this technology is first discovered by an eccentric inventor who rather than patent it, decides to have some fun. He persuades the landlords of some local pubs (he’s based near Portsmouth in the UK) to host a weekly “National Geographic Spectacular” evening where he sets up his portal and dials in various interesting places for people to look at or even briefly visit by stepping through.

What would eventually spur the Government to try to take control of his invention and would the inventor stand any reasonable chance of prosecution for any of the offences he would probably commit? Given the extraordinary nature of the device, his unwillingness to show anyone outside of the pub cliental and his claim in court that the case was preposterous nonsense (with expert evidence from professional scientists if required) and that all he was doing was creating a very clever optical illusion.

If his house was raided nothing would be found. He has no equipment, lab or workshop (at least not locally…).

Example National Geographic Spectacular week 3 At the Hero’s pub Waterlooville about 8 miles north of Portsmouth: The inventor’s voice slowly builds to a crescendo “All the way from Zion National Park in Utah USA … I bring you … Angels Landing” a curtain opens and a few people venture through for a closer look “don’t go too far, mind the edge it’s a steep drop and MAKE SURE YOUR BACK BEFORE 11:00”.

Edit: Re legality, no serious issues initially, but think what’s bound to happen eventually. Perhaps on this night some Brits from the pub wander off and don’t get back by closing time when the portal is closed down and some American “tourists” come through the other way get chatting have a few beers and don’t make it back either. The inventor goes on holiday for a week and they’re stranded.

I suspect the National Geographic Spectacular shows would soon have the pubs packed and people with less than good intentions might take advantage and the press would take an interest. Then what about week 4 – The blue eye of Siberia?

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    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting idea. It looks like you've already built your world and are wanting to know how people will act based on the scenario you have constructed. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Sep 18 '17 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ I had no idea that in the (currently) United Kingdom it was illegal to invent and build novel means of transportation. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 18 '17 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ Prosecution for breaking the laws of physics would be interesting in court...who has jurisdiction? $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Sep 18 '17 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer to your question as asked, but you should be aware of this for your story; as a practical matter, the legal perspective will be irrelevant. When a government (any government) found out about this technology, this guy would be secretly "persuaded" (offered a fortune, kidnapped and tortured, whatever means were necessary) to share the means with them in the blink of an eye. They wouldn't flinch from manufacturing fake charges of murder or bank robbery or whatever just to get this guy under their thumb so they could get their hands on a technology so ludicrously powerful. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Sep 18 '17 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Palarran I agree with you totally, but the Government doesn’t hold all the cards especially early on. Initially they will not believe the reports about what’s happening in Pubs in Hampshire. Later when suspicions are aroused they have to be careful because they don’t know how it works and the secret service searching his house finds nothing (his workshop is not in the UK). Other countries might be involved as far as they know. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 18 '17 at 21:50
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I can see a few laws he might be breaking, or enabling the bar patrons to break. These aren't, generally speaking, local crimes. They're crimes on foreign soil. And petty crimes that are unlikely to result in extradition, even if they find out he's doing it or behind it.

Illegal power

If the source power is from something that the government regulates (ie a homebrew nuclear reactor) or even from unlicensed electrical work, that'd be a problem. But since the technology exists... somewhere else... there's some question about whether the government could find out or claim jurisdiction over that technology.

Trespassing

The bar patrons are stepping through into somewhere else. Is that somewhere else a public space? If not, they are trespassing on someone else's private property. That's generally frowned upon by legal sorts.

Immigration and Customs

Did your bar patrons leave the country and enter another country? Did their destination country grant visas or have a standing arrangement that negates the need for visas? Did your patrons pass through the destination country's customs and get their passports stamped? If not, they may now face legal repercussions for having illegally entered a foreign government.

Souvenirs

Did any of the patrons take any local objects as "souvenirs?" Did they pay for them? If not, they're now thieves as well as illegal visitors.

They may also face fines for not declaring the souvenirs and paying applicable duties on them.

National Security

Really, this is the only one that is likely to matter. Because of the threat this technology allows, the local government may perceive the entire technology as a national security risk. I mean, if some foreign power stole this technology, why, they could bypass our border guards, invade our banks, steal our technologies, incapacitate our leaders and military... The risks are far too great. Better mark this as a state secret and take it and all who know about it into custody.

And then use it against our enemies.

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    $\begingroup$ I would assume that the inventor’s behaviour would not breach generally accepted standards, no deliberate trespass or nasty behaviour. But he might well break immigration restrictions. See bottom of the question in week 3 he linked the Hero’s pub in Waterlooville England to Angels landing Zion Utah USA and let people go through for a look around. No passports or visas involved. The only people who knew what was going on were the people in the pub and possibly a few curious Americans dropping by for a pint after their lengthy climb. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 18 '17 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ It doesn't really matter if destination country requires visas or not. This inventor will essentially be smuggling people in and out of country, bypassing border inspection. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 18 '17 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander, ah, but the people never crossed the borders, did they? $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Sep 19 '17 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ The borders thing is interesting. I crossed loads of national borders the other day, with no passport checks as I was in a plane 30,000 feet up at the time. I only had to present my passport when trying to leave an actual airport. So it's perfectly acceptable to cross a border if you're high enough. What is the legal precedent for crossing borders while in "hyperspace" (or whatever)? $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Sep 19 '17 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Grimmtheopiner The company that owned the plane you flew in had been granted permission to pass through the countries' airspace before takeoff when they filed their flight plan. This generally happens more or less automatically, but it permission does have to be asked and given before takeoff. And "There is no legal precedent" just means "the ruling that this court makes will be the legal precedent for the next case like this" $\endgroup$ – Shadur Sep 19 '17 at 7:57
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I think so long as he is careful to avoid doing a few things (and assuming that nothing in the machine is illegal or controlled, such as fissile material, etc) then he should be OK, legally-speaking.

For one, I'm fairly sure that there are no laws about uncontrolled leaving of the country, only entering. So if you start in the pub, go somewhere foreign, and then end up in the pub it's not going to be vastly different, leagally-speaking, to hopping in your dingy in Kent, crossing into French territorial waters, crossing back again and ending up back in Kent. Of course at this point he needs to make sure he has no extra people, as then you'd be in the realms of people-smuggling.

If he's leaving the country on these trips he may well be breaking the law in those countries (even just on basic immigration laws) but I think that any form of extradition is very unlikely on that front. He should of course be careful to avoid teleporting anywhere that he otherwise would not be allowed to go.

There is of course an entirely different question of precisely how - upon deciding you wanted - to successfully prosecute someone in possession of a teleporter.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes an important part of the question. How do you prosecute under such strange circumstances. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 18 '17 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ He demonstrated the existence of a revolutionary new technology that has the potential to change the entire game and is a HUGE threat to absolutely everybody's national security. Every single country he's "visited" in this manner is going to scream blue bloody murder and demand to be compensated, specifically in the form of immediate extradition of the inventor -- although they'll settle for a copy of the blueprints. $\endgroup$ – Shadur Sep 19 '17 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yes when they finaly believe it and if they can catch him. I would have thought that after a dozen or so shows and a lot of media interest the Government would suddenly take a serious interest. But they would have to find him first. He might well go into hiding and that would be that. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 19 '17 at 8:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Slarty No, it wouldn't. Because there's one rule of reality that movies like Iron Man love to ignore: once someone demonstrates that something can be done, it becomes much easier for other people in the same field to figure out how. And given the implications for national security, every single country with a university is going to get really generous with its research grants in the particle physics/quantum physics departments. $\endgroup$ – Shadur Sep 19 '17 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Slarty you're also suggesting he'll successfully hide. Unless his portal making gear is highly portable -- and unless he can take the portal gear with him through a portal it's making -- there's a limit to how well he can hide, especially since everyone will be looking for him to offer "protective custody". $\endgroup$ – Shadur Sep 19 '17 at 11:10
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Another issue is whether or not the electromagnetic emissions of the teleportation device violate UK laws on the use of the frequency spectrum. Certain frequencies are reserved for certain uses, like emergency services, military, telecom, and so on. There are also regulations regarding how much power can be used while transmitting on those frequencies. It's really quite serious. A certain individual who shall remain nameless told her workmen to orient the satellite system to transmit to a satellite when the line of transmission was blocked by a hotel. Thankfully her workmen told her she was stupid and refused to do it. The transmissions from a 25 foot satellite dish can kill birds in flight and damage the satellite itself. Line of sight microwave can damage the paint on cars. If the scientist's device interferes with telecom systems or creates EMF interference with emergency services radio, I'm sure there will be a host of laws he has violated.

There's also health considerations. The authorities will of course want to know if the EM emissions might have a negative effect on people or animals.

The only other legal issues I can think of are unlawfully entering another country / skipping customs and trespassing, which other posters have already mentioned.

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  • $\begingroup$ A very good point that I had not considered. I had not described how it might work as I was unclear myself, but I assumed it would have involved some sort of localised space distortion to allow one part of 3D space to touch another. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 19 '17 at 8:32
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Just using the device doesn't break any laws unless he breaks a law while using it (eg. using it to pull a bank robbery).

The only thing he could possibly be guilty of. based on your examples, is entering a nation without proper visas or other permits. It would be up to those countries to prosecute (if there was any evidence to back up their claim).

The one with the biggest claim would be the National Graphic Institute who may sue over trademark infringement.

Of course, that doesn't mean that if the nation wanted his secrets badly enough that they couldn't just make something up. If they call him a terrorist, they can mostly do whatever they want.

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    $\begingroup$ They can do whatever they want but would need to be careful. Imagine a dawn raid. 4am and the inventors door get smashed in and he hears shouts of "armed police" and people running up the stairs. When they burst into his bedroom they find that he has escaped througha portal and they are facing a dozen armed chineese soldiers across the other side of the portal. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 18 '17 at 23:46
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Murder

A common question amongst fans of Star Trek is exactly how a transporter operates.

One of the biggest implications is that the transporter essentially turns you into energy, sends that energy to a destination, then reassembles you.

BUT - is the reassembled you really you? Or did the old you die, and the new you is just a copy?

They even mention in a Star Trek episode how transporting can sometimes leave "errors" in the DNA, just like how a photocopier makes a slightly poorer version of the original document.

And one interesting episode where it was discovered a second Will Riker had been accidentally created; which is the real Riker?

So it could be argued that the transporter is actually killing the original person. This would be considered murder, even though a new version of the person is created.

It kind of depends on how the machine works.

International Travel

You know those trips to other countries? Do the people have valid passports? Are they getting them stamped? Are they getting the proper vaccines.

If one of those tourists gets bitten by a mosquito (without knowing it), they could bring a deadly disease home.

There's all kinds of implications you could explore there.

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Smuggling

Your device would make it extremely easy to transport physical goods from one country to another, bypassing all examination by customs and excise officials, and thus evading paying import duty.

Consider tobacco and alcohol. In the UK, these items are heavily taxed on import, and thus there is already a significant problem with smuggling.

If the machine does what it claims, then your protagonist would be able to do things like getting crates of cigarettes shipped to an address in another country, then open his portal and carry them across undetected. It would be completely undetectable and untraceable. He wouldn't even need to steal them or break any local laws.

Whether he actually does this or not for himself, he is also running the risk of his clients doing the same thing. Everyone who goes through the portal could be carrying items that they are intending to illegally export, and could return with illegal imports. The protagonist may not even be aware of it, but he could be seen as liable in the eyes of the authorities.

If the authorities wanted to clamp down on him, it would be very easy to invent charges along these lines, and very hard for him to prove them wrong.

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Illegal introduction of invasive species.

At some point he opens a portal to somewhere in Alberta.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0331_030331_rats_2.html

While the portal is open a few rats from the pub slip through.

Transmissions of pathogens

One of his nightly portals goes to a country where foot and mouth is endemic. The bar patrons track round some local scenery and come back with contaminated material on their feet. At least one of the patrons is a farmer who's farm ends up being herd zero for a new UK foot and mouth outbreak costing the government hundreds of millions.

Drug smuggling

Controlled substances vary by country.

The patrons go for a wander to visit the Mada'in Saleh in Saudi Arabia but carry their pints with them. One of them is picked up by local police. They get the story about the scientist transporting them and since he helped them transport the alcohol into the country illegally he's caused an international incident.

Or perhaps the reverse and one night when he opens a portal to Afghanistan one of the bar patrons with a heroin habit takes the chance to buy some cheap heroin. He's later caught with it in the UK and the story comes out about the portal.

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Most importantly and above all he broke the laws of physics, which is inexcusable.

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    $\begingroup$ That was a fast downvote. I stand by my answer: He didn't break any legal law unless he did something forbidden with his device -- same as with any other device --, but he did break the laws of phsics indeed, and thoroughly. $\endgroup$ – Peter - Reinstate Monica Sep 19 '17 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ If the inventor's teleportation device broke the laws of physics it wouldn't work. I didn't downvote. And, yes, there is no excuse for breaking the laws of physics. $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 19 '17 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Well I suppose that was a bit hasty on my part (so reversed). But I think immigration laws must have been broken and whilst you are correct concerning the laws of physics as we know them today, the laws of physics are always subject to development and new discoveries. More importantly the laws of physics were not the subject of the question. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Sep 21 '17 at 15:37

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