Friday, March 19, 2004


Copyright infringement is not theft... at least not in the way we normally think of theft in the physical world. If I take another person's apple ( or physical CD), they can no longer use that apple (or CD) because I now have it. If I infringe someone's copyright, they are not deprived of their song or text or image, but instead are (possibly) deprived of their opportunity to receive remuneration on account of my gaining a copy of their song or text or image. If in the physical world I could walk into a grocery store and simply by touching an apple make another apple materialize out of nothing, would that be an act that our society should prohibit by criminal sanction?

Even today, our occasionally backwards-thinking legislators do not consider infringing a copyright to be theft, and have therefore prudently refrained from criminalizing the act of mere copying. While I to not think there should be civil remedies either, they make vastly more sense than importing unprincipled (and, if I dare say it, ignorant) notions of criminal justice into a legal regime that is best thought of in terms of industrial and cultural policy.

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