Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 31st Aug 2010 22:09 UTC
Legal Despite doing what I think are some great things for the American people, the Obama administration has a dark side. Joe Biden and many others on staff come straight from the RIAA camp, and it shows. Today, the Obama administration disregarded every US law relating to theft and copyright by stating that piracy is "flat, unadulterated theft".
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Since you're not dealing with legal definitions, but with man-on-the-street definitions, I'll counter you.

Maybe "theft" is limited to your definition, but "stealing" certainly is not.

Plaigerism, the unauthorized use of others' words without attribution, is considered often referred to as "stealing words".
Corporate espionage where one company obtains the business secrets of its competitor is "stealing business secrets".
A student obtaining the questions and answers to an exam before taking the test is said to have "stolen the test".

In these cases, the offended party still possesses the original items, but stealing has indeed occurred, in the colloquial sense.

And of course, there are phrases like "stealing a kiss", which are about unauthorized action rather than change of possession of an item, yet the word "steal" is still used.

Even a student simply copying answers from the brainiac sitting next to him while the test is in progress is often said to have "stolen the answers".

And since this is a tech blog, we've all seen the claims that a company that adopted (even loosely) the ideas of another's previously released product "stole" the ideas.

As for piracy of IP, the actual "theft" in question is is the "theft" of the copyright holder's ability to exercise his/her legal rights wrt the IP in question as he/she sees fit. It's like sneaking in to a movie theater to whatch a movie free of charge. I'd say that a person that did that stole from the movie theater, even though the movie theater didn't have any items removed from their possession. Downloading a movie, song, software, video game, etc, and using it without authorization (for example, without due payment), is the same as sneaking into the theater (only the latter at least takes some courage! lol), so I'd say stealing has occurred just like it did in the sneaking into theater case.

And colloquially, "steal" = "theft". I don't see why people get outraged when someone says "piracy is theft"; we know that the phrase means unauthorized use rather than removal from possession.

The classic wrongs are lie, cheat, steal, harm, kill. So I guess "piracy = cheating" would be preferrable to "piracy = theft" for some, but I don't think the distinction makes much of a difference (again, I'm not talking of legal definitions). Maybe people sleep better at night thinking of themselves as cheaters rather than stealers or theives, so they cling to the distinction between theft/steal and cheat.

Edited 2010-09-01 09:30 UTC

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