Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Apr 2012 19:05 UTC
Legal "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." This could be a huge deal, if it ever were to be upheld in higher courts. More specifically, "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]". Well paint me purple with white and red dots and call me a girl scout.
Order by: Score:
Comment by anevilyak
by anevilyak on Thu 12th Apr 2012 19:13 UTC
anevilyak
Member since:
2005-09-14

It's not quite as sweeping as the headline makes it out to be. What the court essentially stated was that the laws that were used to convict the guy were the wrong ones, not necessarily that what he did wasn't illegal, ergo they simply refused to extend laws that were specifically written for physical objects to virtual ones by analogy. You'll note they also pointed out that it would've been different if he'd, e.g. smuggled the code out on a CD or USB drive, since in that case a physical object would've been involved. The ruling in no way made a decisive precedent on source code in general.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by anevilyak
by kpugovkin on Thu 12th Apr 2012 19:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by anevilyak"
kpugovkin Member since:
2011-07-05

If one copies codes on his/her personal flash drive, should it still make a theft case?

Sooner or later corporations will want to erase employee memory, when they let a person go. We all will be virtual slaves then.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by anevilyak
by anevilyak on Thu 12th Apr 2012 20:00 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by anevilyak"
anevilyak Member since:
2005-09-14

If one copies codes on his/her personal flash drive, should it still make a theft case?


That was pretty much my point, this is far less of a legal victory than the article title makes it sound.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by anevilyak
by Neolander on Thu 12th Apr 2012 21:58 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by anevilyak"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

You've got to see Paycheck. That's an awesome movie about erasing memories...

Edited 2012-04-12 21:59 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by anevilyak
by Soulbender on Fri 13th Apr 2012 02:05 UTC in reply to "Comment by anevilyak"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

You'll note they also pointed out that it would've been different if he'd, e.g. smuggled the code out on a CD or USB drive, since in that case a physical object would've been involved.


I'll have to disagree with them on that unless it was the company's USB stick or CD. If he used his own USB stick he still would not have stolen any physical property.
But yeah, that doesn't mean he's not guilty of something.

Reply Score: 4

Interesting
by Pro-Competition on Thu 12th Apr 2012 19:19 UTC
Pro-Competition
Member since:
2007-08-20

Since this was an Appeals Court ruling, this should hold some weight nationally. It also means that the Supreme Court are the only ones that can overrule the decision.

Of course, you can never tell what this Supreme Court will do...

Disclaimer: IANAL

Reply Score: 2

Makes sense
by BrianH on Thu 12th Apr 2012 19:22 UTC
BrianH
Member since:
2005-07-06

He could arguably be charged with copyright violation, violating trade secrets, or even industrial espionage, but not theft. Good call.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Makes sense
by MollyC on Thu 12th Apr 2012 20:14 UTC in reply to "Makes sense"
MollyC Member since:
2006-07-04

It's a good call legally (maybe), but colloquially, "theft/steal" does applies to misappropriating code, IMO.

"theft/steal" often apply to non-physical things in layman's vernacular.
"stealing secrets", "stealing identity" (also known as "identity theft"), "stealing ideas", etc.

That being said, just from the very small bits I've read on this case, this guy should've been charged with the violations you cite (espionage, violating trade secrets, etc), rather than theft of physical property.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Makes sense
by Delgarde on Thu 12th Apr 2012 23:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Makes sense"
Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

It's a good call legally (maybe), but colloquially, "theft/steal" does applies to misappropriating code, IMO


Colloquially, yes. But colloquial usage is irrelevant - just because someone calls this kind of thing "theft", doesn't mean they can press charges under laws that define "theft" in terms of depriving the owner of physical property.

Had they instead charged him under copyright law, they'd almost certainly have won their case.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Makes sense
by The123king on Sat 14th Apr 2012 18:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Makes sense"
The123king Member since:
2009-05-28

The closest thing I think he can be charged for is copyright infringement, seeing as theft "is the taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it" and copyright infringement "is the unauthorized use of works under copyright, infringing the copyright holder's "exclusive rights", such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, spread the information contained within copyrighted works, or to make derivative works."

Seeing as the source code was never taken on someone elses pendrive or CD, the only real crime commited would be that of copyright infringement.

(text in quotes taken from the Wikipedia articles on the relevant subjects)

Edited 2012-04-14 18:17 UTC

Reply Score: 1

GS ought to have better terms.
by jefro on Thu 12th Apr 2012 19:47 UTC
jefro
Member since:
2007-04-13

Big computer companies have had quite extensive terms of employment on this subject.

This will not pass larger courts. It will be ruled as intellectual property and therefore covered.

Reply Score: 2

RE: GS ought to have better terms.
by Alfman on Thu 12th Apr 2012 20:20 UTC in reply to "GS ought to have better terms."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

jefro,

Whatever you want to call it, I'm glad the court recognized that the digital data isn't covered by physical property laws. Copying code doesn't deprive the owner of the original like stealing it would. It's only a copy, albeit an illegal one. It's rare to see this kind of common sense these days.

This shouldn't get him off the hook, but at least prosecute him under the right laws.

Reply Score: 5

RE: GS ought to have better terms.
by Delgarde on Thu 12th Apr 2012 23:27 UTC in reply to "GS ought to have better terms."
Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

This will not pass larger courts. It will be ruled as intellectual property and therefore covered.


It *should* pass higher courts, for the very reason you give. This case is all about intellectual property, which has its own laws, and is very clearly *not* covered by laws pertaining to physical theft.

Reply Score: 2

GIRL SCOUT!
by froh on Thu 12th Apr 2012 23:51 UTC
froh
Member since:
2009-03-01

Reply Score: 3

theft
by demosthenese on Fri 13th Apr 2012 00:33 UTC
demosthenese
Member since:
2011-02-01

Theft requires that the lawful owner be permanently prevented from enjoying the use of their property; this is true in both the UK and US legal systems. If you copy code then the lawful owner still retains use of their property so no theft has occurred.

This is why specific laws have been passed with regard to taking vehicles - since many joy riders claimed they intended to return the vehicle after using it and so the act was not covered by theft laws. Often they could only be charged with stealing the petrol - which would be a petty crime compared with stealing a vehicle.

Reply Score: 1