The claim that illegal downloading is stealing has been a mainstay of the entertainment industry’s campaign against music, movie and software piracy. But especially among young people, this idea doesn’t hold much sway. Downloading an illicit MP3 seems like a different kind of wrong from car theft. On this episode of Public Ethics Radio, Stuart Green says that property law has fallen out of sync with people’s underlying moral values.
Stuart Green is a professor at the Rutgers University School of Law and the author of Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle. For a quick summary of his views on illegal downloading, see his recent op-ed in the New York Times, “‘Theft’ Law in the 21st Century.”
Here’s a handy illustration of that piracy-isn’t-stealing meme from the intro.
For more on the empirical research Green mentions on attitudes about theft, see his article co-authored with Matthew Kugler, “Community Perceptions of Theft Seriousness: A Challenge to the Model Penal Code and English Theft Act Consolidation.”