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.
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by demosthenese on Fri 13th Apr 2012 00:33 UTC
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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.

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