Theft is wrong. Most – although by no means all – of us can agree on that. We have an instinctive feel for what this means at the basic level; if someone owns something we shouldn’t take it from them if they don’t want us to. The law backs this up too; the most basic definition of theft under UK law tells us “A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.” I doubt that the laws of most other countries significantly deviate from this.
So why do we hear so much of people “stealing” intellectual property on the internet; music, books, film, software, it seems that little that can be sent down a fibre optic cable is sacrosanct. If you know how, it is relatively easy to avoid paying for such items on the internet – certainly much easier than it would be to enter a shop and take the physical copy of these items. So has society lost its way? Has the spirit of morality died? I don’t think so. I believe that many people who might download a copy of their favourite movie for free if they came across it online would be shocked at the thought of going into a music shop and walking out with a DVD in hand unpaid for, so something else is clearly going on here.