Just about every time I put a DVD in, or tune in to commercial television, I see a cautionary advert that says (either) "Piracy is theft" or "Piracy is stealing", or "Piracy is a crime". These relate to movies, music, software. You hear and see these messages a lot.
Now, it might seem unreasonably pedantic, but those statements are misleading. That is, taken literally, they are false.
Theft, and stealing are crimes (actually, they're not always crimes, but they usually are). Theft is... well:
- A person steals if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.
- A person who steals is guilty of theft; and "thief" shall be construed accordingly.
Look closely: "with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it"
If someone takes your keys, they are stealing. If someone shoplifts a product from a shelf, they are stealing. If someone takes your car, they are stealing. Each of these deprives the owner of the thing that is stolen. Watch? Wallet? Shoes? Fanny-pack? Jewelry? Luggage? Stealing.
If someone rips your texture, photocopies your book, copies your files or plagiarizes your words, that is not stealing. You have not been deprived of your texture, data or words.
What it actually is, is an infringement of your civil rights. That's unlawful, and there's no question about it.
Technically though, it isn't actually a crime. It's a civil infringement and not a matter for criminal law (though there are some circumstances where it can be, but they're not really the sorts of circumstances you're likely to run into commonly).
Saying that Piracy is theft/stealing/a crime is what we call hype (exaggeration for effect). It's essentially a false statement. It's also an insulting one, to some degree, because it suggests that you don't know any better. You can say that someone's future profits are being 'stolen', but that's something they don't have yet, and that's a civil action as well, and not stealing as the law defines it.
I guess saying that "Piracy is a violation of the civil rights of others" lacks the sort of punch that gets it onto the front of tee-shirts. But we're not really talking about catchy tee-shirt slogans here.
Trivia note: Until relatively recently, in historical terms, the term piracy (in the intellectual property sense) wasn't applied to what consumers did. It was something that publishers did. A pirate was a publisher who used your work, music, or ideas and didn't compensate you fairly (or at all) for it.
Now I'm not saying that the violation of the civil rights of others is right. I'm just a bit fed up with being bombarded by false statements. Are you?