Courts Agree, Copying is Not Theft

I, and many other folks have been saying for a long time that copying is not theft.

When you steal something, you take it from someone else, and they no longer have it. If a student copies the work of a peer, that is a vastly different offense than if that same student were to take the work of a peer, and replace her name with his own.

Copying is copying. Theft is theft. Confusing the two is disingenuous… And the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agrees.

“Former Goldman Sachs programmer Sergey Aleynikov, who downloaded source code for the investment firm’s high-speed trading system from the company’s computers, was wrongly charged with theft of property because the code did not qualify as a physical object under a federal theft statute, according to a court opinion published Wednesday.

“Because Aleynikov did not ‘assume physical control’ over anything when he took the source code, and because he did not thereby ‘deprive [Goldman] of its use,’ Aleynikov did not violate the [National Stolen Property Act],” the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion (.pdf).

Glad we’ve cleared that up.

If we as a people believe that copying is a crime, we need to pass a law making it so. I’m not sure that’s a good idea, but if we do, it should be a lesser offense than theft.

Now as a society, can we stop letting the RIAA sue people for hundreds of thousands of dollars for copying music?

(Via Wired – Threat Level)

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