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Court Rules Code Not Physical Property

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the took-them-this-long-to-notice dept.

Software 125

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired: "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." Adds the submitter: "The RIAA's definitely got to give Goldman Sachs their secret recipe ..."

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125 comments

"Intellectual" Proerty (5, Funny)

SirBitBucket (1292924) | about 2 years ago | (#39660319)

Code can only be created by intellectuals, like /. readers; therefore, it is Intellectual Property, not some ho-hum, run-of-the-mill property...

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (0)

Theophany (2519296) | about 2 years ago | (#39660697)

Code can only be created by intellectuals, like some /. readers; therefore, it is Intellectual Property, not some ho-hum, run-of-the-mill property...

FTFY.

(Side note; my coding knowledge is limited to web coding, so I'm not in the 'some.' That's mainly because my job is in investments, not tech!)

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#39660741)

sweet, so we got a php hack (not to be confused with hacker) playing with forces beyond his comprehension to affect the distribution of wealth. i'll have a coke.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660951)

Sweet, so we got a computer scientist. Have fun in your software sandbox, kid. The men are busy making hardware.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661203)

Hardware? Real men design and build automatons to grow and build hardware for them.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661385)

Most men skip the design stage and go straight to the 'build and grow' stages. If successful, we tend to call the men "parents," but good luck getting the new automatons to actually mow the lawn.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39662623)

Get off of my lawn, you pesky automatons! :)

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39664767)

I for one welcome our new not-lawn-mowing pesky automatons.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663019)

Jew.

Re:"Intellectual" Property (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39660815)

Code can only be created by intellectuals, like /. readers; therefore, it is Intellectual Property, not some ho-hum, run-of-the-mill property...

Seems like your attempt at snark was almost as successful as your spelling in the title.

But, perhaps by accident you've hit the nail on the head. This should have been charged with a copyright or trade secrets violation, or some security breach, not theft of property. Most states have laws covering criminal use of computers, as does the federal government. There was never a need to base these charges on the theft statutes.

In California (by way of example) there are specific laws concerning taking information [findlaw.com] from a computer in an unauthorized way. (Penal Code Section 499c 2.) [onecle.com]

But the bigger question is how many others have been charged with simple Property Theft under federal law in the past for this same sort of breach (downloading source code) and paid the penalty or served the time?

To what extent does this change the landscape for computer break-ins?

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39661065)

I am the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of William Shakespeare. I claim his works as formerly his, and now my, "intellectual property". I will be sending a cease-and-desist letter shortly.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39661533)

Well as inheritor of the intellectual property of Genghis Khan, I will be replying to this cease-and-desist with a horde of mounted archers.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661713)

The patent for his procedures has surely expired by this point.

Re:"Intellectual" Proerty (0)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#39662855)

That's right imaginary property is special.
You can imagine it belongs to someone instead of just being concepts,thoughts and ideas.
We all know you can't touch these and information longs to be free like water seeks its lowest point.
I predict when you have the ability to catch a fart, paint it purple and put it in a box for market then you will be able to get everyone on the same page with this intellectual property fairy tale. Till then, it's going to be unmarketable, uncontainable chaos , making criminals of everyone and filling the legal system with time and money killers.
Learn your lesson folks. Give up, Find a business model that works.
Banging your head over and over is stupid enough.
Doing it for years and throwing money and time at it is positively retarded and will draw predators who realize you are stupid and an easy target.
It would be nice if anything you could put effort into would payout in equal ratio or realistically less, but then we all know that not only defies physics but likelihood as well.
The world will progress as planned when we get over this crap of "owning" ideas for ridiculous amounts of time.
The desire for the almighty buck doesn't outweigh natures need for information to flow freely.
Deny it all you want, but the current way doesn't work and mine will.

herp derp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660323)

Adds the submitter: "RIAA definitely got to give Goldman Sachs their secret recipe ..."

Hurr hurr.

Lame summary. Lame commentary. Slashdot = stagnated.

Re:herp derp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660405)

Oh fuck me, I actually agree with Michael Kristopeit. Damn you to hell Slashdot. Now please excuse my while I claw my own brain out with a rusty nail.

Re:herp derp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39662491)

haha, you are so mental to constantly subject yourself to something you hate. Seriously, it is a mental problem you have. Just go away and your life will improve.

Re:herp derp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663591)

Adds the submitter: "RIAA definitely got to give Goldman Sachs their secret recipe ..."

Hurr hurr.

Lame summary. Lame commentary. Slashdot = stagnated.

'Lame commentary' indeed. Parent is a self-demonstrating post.

Procedural error (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#39660407)

This is a procedural error, not a statement that 'stealing' code isn't a crime. Rest assured, legislation is being drafted that will ensure that stealing from a poor, innocent company, will earn you at least 30 years in jail and an 8 trillion dollar fine. Really, it would be less troublesome to just murder the CEO the way the laws are being written these days...

Re:Procedural error (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660467)

What I don't understand is why they want to believe that Stealing code is a piece of property....

But Importing Code from another country is just information (not requiring import taxes etc....)

How on earth can it be both?

Re:Procedural error (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#39660601)

What I don't understand is why they want to believe that Stealing code is a piece of property....But Importing Code from another country is just information (not requiring import taxes etc....) How on earth can it be both?

Easy. Like this: "Hey, legislator, I want a new law passed that makes absolutely no sense but will benefit me greatly. In exchange, I'll pay for your re-election campaign." "derp derp herp derp." "Okay then! Thank you for your cooperation."

Re:Procedural error (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661269)

Please make a monetary contribution to my office in order to assist my staff and I in this important matter. Note that the size of your contribution may be a factor in prioritization.

Signed, your legislator.

Re:Procedural error (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663363)

Schroedinger's Code?

Re:Procedural error (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#39663647)

Because this case wasn't about property. It was about "goods, wares [or] merchandise." The reporting on this case seems rather misleading; if you read the actual judgment [wired.com] , they were quite happy that the code could be stolen, but theft is a matter for state law, not federal. They'd prosecuted the guy under the National Stolen Property Act [cornell.edu] which only applies to cases of theft or fraud where some "goods, wares, merchandise" etc., involved in a theft or fraud, are taken across a state or national border (presumably because a more general theft law would be unconstitutional, whereas this can come under the interstate commerce clause thingamy - IANA(US)L).

In this case, while the code was stolen (which is the silly part of US law, which recognises information as property), the specific law is drafted in a way that only applies to moving tangible goods (or money). Unlike an earlier case which is referenced - where information was photocopied and taken across a border and the defendant seems to have been convicted - here the information was transmitted via the internet, so no "goods" were taken across a border. Basically, this is due to a badly-drafted piece of legislation (I guess in 1934 people weren't really thinking about intangible property).

So, both types of code are property, but imported code isn't goods, wares or merchandise (unless it's bound to some physical form).

Re:Procedural error (5, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#39660733)

Correct. Not that what Aleynikov did wasn't wrong. But for our legal system to operate properly and fairly, we've go to stick to the rules. Now, I'm no legal scholar, but the judge evidently had reservations about exactly what the intent of Congress was when they wrote that federal statute. And that's a good thing. It will force them (Congress) to go back to the drawing board and address the different aspects of stealing/copying/damaging this class of property. And they very well may make a distinction between snatching a copy for yourself and depriving the original owner of the use of their property. And they might address the various ways that this deprivation can affect the owner, from an outright denial of service to the (imaginary or real) loss of potential market share. And each case could get its own legal treatment, which might end up being a good thing all around.

Re:Procedural error (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#39661003)

And each case could get its own legal treatment, which might end up being a good thing all around.

Up until you said that, I pretty much agreed with your post. A major goal of our justice system is to create a fair and impartial judgement; Creating 'one offs' defeats that. The punishment for theft of code should be the same whether it's Microsoft's Windows 7 source code, or Linux. And even if the source code is publicly available, that doesn't release someone from following the licensing agreement, which brings us back to the problem of making violations of a licensing agreement a crime.

That's why it has been left in civil court instead of criminal court: Imprisonment should never be a power vested in a private individual or organization.

Re:Procedural error (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 2 years ago | (#39664007)

which brings us back to the problem of making violations of a licensing agreement a crime.

The answer is of course it should never be a crime to violate a 'license' agreement. A license is a contract and should remain a strictly civil matter. Violating a license as in "I made copies I was not permitted to", "Ran this on more systems than was allowed", "Used that code in some other application where prohibited" are all things where the author has in some way made the code available to me in the first place.

Theft of code might be a legitimate area of law for criminalization if the code was acquired through extraordinary means. "I dumped it of my employeer's provided laptop and removed it to my own storage", "I broke into this companies server and downloaded it", "I paid someone with access to provide me with illegal copies", type situations.

Re:Procedural error (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | about 2 years ago | (#39666325)

"And they very well may make a distinction between snatching a copy for yourself and depriving the original owner of the use of their property." interesting statement. I don't know but the code may have been written by the fellow which muddies the water about the intent of the IP laws and companies being able to get you to sign over any of your IP to them. The copyright law is and has been to allow the intellectual creator a period of time to benefit from their IP, not it has been turned into a commodity that can be bought and sold by people who are not the creators. I think the laws should be re-written so that the original creators always hold the rights (for the time period) but can allow say an employer free licensing (but not exclusive) use of the IP. That would dramatically change the business model and probably properly compensate the true creators of such works. The executives that clip the coupons of IP would have to pay for that privilege.

Re:Procedural error (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661179)

This is a procedural error, not a statement that 'stealing' code isn't a crime. Rest assured, legislation is being drafted that will ensure that stealing from a poor, innocent company, will earn you at least 30 years in jail and an 8 trillion dollar fine. Really, it would be less troublesome to just murder the CEO the way the laws are being written these days...

'This' is exactly what people are complaining about when people call copyright infringement 'theft'. It's not. There are different laws governing the two. They are wholly different concepts. The more they are conflated, the more that stupid mistakes like this one will happen, and any decent defense lawyer will keep racking up victories when this happens.

Words... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#39661549)

Words mean things and using them improperly effects public opinion, and in turn legislation. ( just look at what happened to the term 'hacker' ).

Its simply not 'theft' its 'infringement'.

Re:Words... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661805)

"affects public opinion"....

"not simply"...

Fixed that for ya. Thanks for proving a point.

Re:Procedural error (3, Insightful)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 2 years ago | (#39662481)

"Credit fraud? My God, that's worse than murder!"

It was funny when I heard that line in "Max Headroom" back when I was a kid...

Re:Procedural error (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663107)

Really, it would be less troublesome to just murder the CEO the way the laws* are being written these days...

* Only if you're in Florida

Re:Procedural error (1)

yacc143 (975862) | about 2 years ago | (#39663479)

And you have a contract claiming that the CEO's office is rented to you AND you feel threatened by the guy. Actually, it would probably help if you could put a toy gun into his hand so you can make it believable that you were threatened, ...

In other news: water is wet! (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 2 years ago | (#39660431)

Court Rules Code Not Physical Property

Well, duh.

Nice to see some intelligence in the courts now and then.

Re:In other news: water is wet! (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#39660489)

Nice to see some intelligence in the courts now and then.

All they have done is stated that code is non-corporeal. They haven't said stealing it isn't a crime... It's mostly a case of "Oh, so I see you filed the blue form here, but you need to fill out the green form instead." "But it's the same thing!" "No, one is blue, the other is green."

Re:In other news: water is wet! (5, Interesting)

Fned (43219) | about 2 years ago | (#39660933)

All they have done is stated that code is non-corporeal. They haven't said stealing it isn't a crime...

Who gives a shit if it's still a crime, do you realize what this means?!

Now whenever someone says "copyright infringment is theft", instead of spending dozens of paragraphs pointing out the gigantic unpatchable holes in their spurious-ass inevitable failure of an argument, we can now just say, "Goldman-Sachs v. Aleynikov, your argument is invalid. STFU forever."

This will save SO much time in the future.

Re:In other news: water is wet! (3, Interesting)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#39662011)

Some of us have been able to do this for years, using Oxford v Moss [wikipedia.org] (there's also Boardman v Phipps [wikipedia.org] which is a House of Lords case, but on trusts, and the information != property point is kind of obiter).

Of course, then they go "well, OK, it's not technically theft, but it's still taking someone else's stuff without paying for it" - remember, you don't have debates about copyright enforcement law, you have rants from either side; no one really seems to care about verifiable facts.

Re:In other news: water is wet! (1)

lgw (121541) | about 2 years ago | (#39664553)

Nope, copyright infringment is theft. Simple as that. "Theft" is a broader term than taking physical property. Some copyright infringment is straightforward theft of services, but when we're talking about the bits of a book or DVD or somesuch, it's closer than you might think.

If we're not talking about top-40 titles, most physical books and CDs and so on don't sell out - some are left over at the store and "remaindered" by some mechanism (which might invovle sending the unsold stock back, or might not). When you shoplift a book or DVD that was going to be remaindered anyhow, you haven't usually deprived the owner of the item in any meaningful way. Unless stock runs out, he still gets to sell a copy to every buyer. You've cost him a sale, not deprived him of somehting he was using. But that's still theft, right?

Books cost very little to print (per unit), CDs and DVDSs cost next to nothing to stamp. The fact that these are physical items has very little relevence to the fact that taking them is theft. The physical items per se are nearly worthless to begin with, the only meaninful loss is taking the bits without paying.

Re:In other news: water is wet! (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 2 years ago | (#39665045)

Re:In other news: water is wet! (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#39666295)

Sadly not; all this ruling said was that the offence under the National Stolen Property Act of moving stolen stuff across state borders requires some physical goods (when not dealing with money). The judgment still talks about the "theft of intangible property" and so on. At least for the relevant jurisdictions.

Re:In other news: water is wet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39665629)

Sorry, you fail at law. Citation [slashdot.org] .

Re:In other news: water is wet! (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#39666239)

Nope, copyright infringement is theft. Simple as that. "Theft" is a broader term than taking physical property. Some copyright infringement is straightforward theft of services, but when we're talking about the bits of a book or DVD or some such, it's closer than you might think.

And how are you defining "theft"? In the legal sense, or colloquial? If legal, then in which jurisdiction? If colloquial, in which society? Your claim is kind of meaningless without specifying that. Or, at least, hard to rebut.

Legally, in the US, theft isn't a federal offence, so it will vary from state to state, depending on each one's law. I can't be bothered to go through all 50 (or even 1) to find out how it works there. However, as you might have noticed from my post (to which you replied), or should have noticed had you followed either of the links I provided, I was referring to the UK (or more specifically, England and Wales). In E+W copyright infringement isn't legally theft, for the simple reason that in order to steal something, there has to be some property to steal and, based on the cases I gave, information isn't property. There are also issues of permanently depriving and removing all value, use and so on. That's based on statute now, but the statute mostly codified the common law, so US laws shouldn't be that different.

Colloquial, one could define theft as "taking someone else's stuff without their permission." In the case of copyright infringement, there isn't any taking. Only copying. And copying isn't theft [youtube.com] . Simple as that.

The fact that these are physical items has very little relevance to the fact that taking them is theft. The physical items per se are nearly worthless to begin with, the only meaningful loss is taking the bits without paying.

Of course their physical nature is irrelevant. However, the fact that they are property (in the legal, not colloquial sense) has everything to do with the fact that taking them is theft. If you don't have property, you can't have theft. The worth of the objects is, however, irrelevant to the fact that taking them is theft, although it might affect sentences, or additional offences (such as the one involved in this case, under the NSPA). That said, information (that is publicly available) is valueless. It can be copied (almost) effortlessly, and then the principles of supply and demand come into play - copyright is an attempt to subvert that by restricting demand. However, if it is ignored, it fails spectacularly (although evidence suggests people are perfectly willing to pay for either physical products, or services; i.e. things that can't be copied effortlessly).

Re:In other news... (1)

Tasha26 (1613349) | about 2 years ago | (#39660511)

Court rules that downloading binary bits does not qualify as theft.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660763)

There are 10 kinds of people in the world If they all downloaded, men would see women and women would see men.

Criminal charges vs. civil suit (4, Insightful)

sohmc (595388) | about 2 years ago | (#39660435)

That's the difference between the RIAA and Goldman Sachs. The RIAA doesn't arrest anyone or even get the state to arrest anyone. They just file lawsuits. Goldman Sachs actually wanted criminal charges.

I'm sure that Goldman Sachs will now file a copyright infringement lawsuit.

But it begs the question if anyone has ever been jailed for copyright infringement. My google skills are lacking now that I'm in my post-lunch coma...

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660547)

Well, it absolutely does not beg the question, but I'll answer it for you anyway. Many many people have been jailed for copyright infringement, it actually happens all the time. The guys selling bootleg DVDs on the street would be the most obvious example. Anyway, for your reference:
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html#506 [copyright.gov]

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661145)

Well, it absolutely does not beg the question

Cause remember kids, begging the question involves neither begging nor a question.

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (1)

knarfling (735361) | about 2 years ago | (#39664001)

Well, it absolutely does not beg the question

Just in case you did not know, "begging the question" is a bad translation of the Latin phrase Petitio Principii. A literal translation might be "begging or taking for granted of the beginning of a principle." Another translation might be "demanding the postulate."

We keep harping on people for incorrectly using an incorrect translation because people have been using it incorrectly for years. "Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid."

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (4, Informative)

am 2k (217885) | about 2 years ago | (#39660625)

But it begs the question if anyone has ever been jailed for copyright infringement.

Yep: Kino.to Admin Gets 2,5 Years Prison Sentence [torrentfreak.com] .

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 2 years ago | (#39663649)

But it begs the question if anyone has ever been jailed for copyright infringement.

Yep: Kino.to Admin Gets 2,5 Years Prison Sentence [torrentfreak.com] .

That's not in the U.S., which I assume the GP was asking about. That said, it's yes here, too, under 17 U.S.C. 506:

(a) Criminal Infringement. —
(1) In general. — Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed —
(A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;
(B) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000; or
(C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.

And for a recent case, see NinjaVideo.net [arstechnica.com] .

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (4, Insightful)

jbengt (874751) | about 2 years ago | (#39661681)

I'm sure that Goldman Sachs will now file a copyright infringement lawsuit.

I'm not at all sure of that - a trade secret can't be copyrighted, can it?

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663273)

You need to read your copyright law. ALL works ARE COPYRIGHTED! That photo you took and posted on the net, it is copyrighted. However, without registering it, the most you can get is a $500 copyright infringement award, register it and it skyrockets up to $100,000.

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663349)

You need to read your copyright law. ALL works ARE COPYRIGHTED! That photo you took and posted on the net, it is copyrighted. However, without registering it, the most you can get is a $500 copyright infringement award, register it and it skyrockets up to $100,000.

Same coward see this url:
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#what

Re:Criminal charges vs. civil suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39665431)

had a friend some years ago very much arrested by sony and a local swat team. Sony rep went right through the door after the battering ram with the swat team (not sure if he was armed). His crime, bought a few games from a shady guy that rolled over on all of the people that bought the game copies. He pled to 2 years probation, and 30 days in jail.

"Theft" of data isn't quite right. (2)

LostCluster (625375) | about 2 years ago | (#39660437)

This is as old as Napster and other file sharing technologies. The copyright holders would rather use the laws for "theft" than "copyright infringement" but that's just not going to work. Good lawyer work on the defense side I think.

I'm sure this isn't over. (2)

beschra (1424727) | about 2 years ago | (#39660445)

Sounds like they just picked the wrong law for the charges.

Re:I'm sure this isn't over. (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#39660561)

no its over

in the US we have something called double jeopardy. it says you can't be charged for the same thing twice. this includes filing new charges for the same action/offense. once you are found not guilty the government can only charge you again for something else you do/did

GS wasn't selling the code (2)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#39660519)

if this was Windows or some other piece of sold software then he would still be in jail

GS was using the code for internal use and not reselling it. interstate commerce does not apply then according to the court. because there was no commerce

Re:GS wasn't selling the code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660759)

If you created the algorithm and knew how to implement it correctly, what's to prevent you from doing it for yourself? Mathematics isn't supposed to be patentable. Downloading someone else's code is different, but what if the original author went "rogue"?

Re:GS wasn't selling the code (1)

jpapon (1877296) | about 2 years ago | (#39660963)

I believe it counts as a trade secret; they paid you to develop it, and even though they didn't patent the work, it is protected.

Re:GS wasn't selling the code (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661365)

Then you follow through by using the Uniform Trade Secrets Act to go after him. Not theft (State laws, Interstate Commerce Act), copyright (Copyright Act), patent (Patent Act) or trademark (Lanham Act) laws which do not cover "trade secrets."

Re:GS wasn't selling the code (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#39661129)

Wickard v. Filburn.

This may not have been theft of property, but it's certainly violating some trade secrets laws.

looks like plaintiff lawyers screwed up (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 2 years ago | (#39660583)

looks like plaintiff lawyers screwed up

Re:looks like plaintiff lawyers screwed up (1)

Fned (43219) | about 2 years ago | (#39660799)

looks like plaintiff lawyers screwed up

Yeah, by bringing the case in the first place. Nowhere in physical reality nor law is information directly equivalent to property.

should have been other charges actually (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#39664775)

There are other applicable charges (misappropriation of trade secrets, copyright infringement, etc.) that would be applicable to the case. It's just not "theft".

This has nada to do with intellectual property (1)

American Patent Guy (653432) | about 2 years ago | (#39660715)

So the prosecutor got the wrong criminal charge. Am I supposed to be impressed?

Goldman Sachs can still go after him and ruin his life for theft of trade secrets, copyright infringement, violations of his employee agreement, and a host of other things. That will be before another judge in civil court, folks, with different laws entirely.

Copying != Moving (1)

cpghost (719344) | about 2 years ago | (#39660737)

Let me see: the guy downloaded a copy of the code, he didn't remove the original, right? If code were physical property, the original would have magically and necessarily vanished from GS's system the moment he downloaded it. If it was still there, code cannot be physical property. It's as simple as that. Of course, it could still be considered intellectual property, but that's something entirely different and not what the Court had to decide.

It's not theft. (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about 2 years ago | (#39660839)

Well, of course. Copyright violation isn't theft, no matter what the RIAA's commercials tell us. It's copyright violation. It may be breach of trust, and it may involve lots of stuff that can land the perpetrator in serious trouble, but it's not theft, and it's not piracy.

Perhaps GS was deprived (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39660943)

If the value to GS was that the algorithms in the code were secret,

      then maybe making a copy did deprive GS of the whole value of the code.

(Which is a little different than things involving the RIAA.)

secret receipe snark (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39661187)

Yeah how about DEATH SENTENCES for that secret recipe?

The RIAA (2, Interesting)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#39662191)

aren't stupid enough to go for a theft charge.

Let's see they could try for a theft charge that the person stole 50 songs at 99c a song on itunes for under $50 wroth of theft.

Or they chould try for a copyright infringment charge that the person aided in thousands of copies being made by sharing the files. With statutory damages of $150,000 up for grabs.

Wow, hard choice...

another bad judgement by an out of touch judge (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 2 years ago | (#39662819)

This is just like the judge in the UK that ruled that an electronic key was quiet different to a physical one (the infamous Prestel hacking case) - where any "reasonable" person would say they perform the same function so they are the same.

As Spock said "A difference that makes no difference, is no difference"

Re:another bad judgement by an out of touch judge (1)

julesh (229690) | about 2 years ago | (#39664217)

This is just like the judge in the UK that ruled that an electronic key was quiet different to a physical one (the infamous Prestel hacking case) - where any "reasonable" person would say they perform the same function so they are the same.

As Spock said "A difference that makes no difference, is no difference"

The difference made by this difference is that if you steal something physical, the original owner no longer has it. In this case, the original owner still had their code, hence it wasn't stolen.

Re:another bad judgement by an out of touch judge (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 2 years ago | (#39667285)

the owner lost the exclusivity of use of the code and trade secrets - and the prestel case was about the equivalency or not of an electronic key vs a physical one

no, good decision (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#39664797)

It can't be "theft" if the original property is still in the hands of the original owner.

If I photocopy a document and take the copy, it's not "theft". If I take a picture of a painting, it's not "theft". Similarly, if I duplicate a digital file, it can't possibly be "theft".

Re:no, good decision (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 2 years ago | (#39667367)

steeling trade secrets is stealing - sounds like a lot of ./'s are using this perverse judgement to validate their "sharing"

Re:another bad judgement by an out of touch judge (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | about 2 years ago | (#39666315)

But at least Spock was smart enough to know the difference between a trivial distinction and a real one, unlike you. :P Seriously though, they are different, established by logic, and how the law works, no matter how much sticking-your-finger-in-your-ear-NANANANAing you do.

How is anything not a physical property? (1)

bAdministrator (815570) | about 2 years ago | (#39662965)

Everything is a collection of state in space.
The property concept comes from the "shell" we perceive to surround a collection of state so that we can tell things apart; an egg is a property, but is it really no different from a file?

When you download a file, an exclusive region of space must be reserved on your end to hold it, which is then synched to match the state of the source space.

It's free, if you disregard the energy required to synch the state or keep it, but someone arranged the state to begin with.

Re:How is anything not a physical property? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39663345)

Everything is a collection of state in space.

I think I am having an acid trip flashback.

still not theft (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#39664833)

Even if we posit your definition, it's not theft. The original bits on the server hard drive were not removed.

Vermont Take Notice (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 years ago | (#39667361)

This is interesting because Vermont is trying to apply the sales tax to cloud computing. If code isn't physical property then Vermont my be up stick creek without an addler.

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