Piracy is just stealing. Putting a fancy name on it is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.
I think that's the point of calling it "piracy." Seafaring pirates were not the romantic, fun loving, good hearted adventurers we see in the media today. Pirates were thieves who looted, murdered, and plundered. That's not really a fancy name or a pleasant title.
The courts do not deal with IP piracy as theft it's in its own class, infringement:
The RIAA, MPAA and copyright holders describe P2P users as "pirates" - invoking images of swashbuckling pre-teens hauling up the Jolly Roger and stealing intellectual property in the dead of night. New ads announced by MPAA President Jack Valente impress the idea that "copying is stealing" and that someone who burns MP3s is no different from those who slip a CD under their shirt at the local Tower Records.
But technically, file sharing is not theft.
A number of years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with a man named Dowling, who sold "pirated" Elvis Presley recordings, and was prosecuted for the Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property. The Supremes did not condone his actions, but did make it clear that it was not "theft" -- but technically "infringement" of the copyright of the Presley estate, and therefore copyright law, and not anti-theft statutes, had to be invoked.http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/175
Obviously this doesn't make IP infringement right
. But because the infringement does not deprive the legitimate owner of the continued use of his property, the crime is clearly distinct from "theft".
From Justice Blackmun's majority opinion:
The phonorecords in question were not "stolen, converted or taken by fraud" for purposes of [section] 2314. The section's language clearly contemplates a physical identity between the items unlawfully obtained and those eventually transported, and hence some prior physical taking of the subject goods. Since the statutorily defined property rights of a copyright holder have a character distinct from the possessory interest of the owner of simple "goods, wares, [or] merchandise," interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The infringer of a copyright does not assume physical control over the copyright nor wholly deprive its owner of its use. Infringement implicates a more complex set of property interests than does run-of-the-mill theft, conversion, or fraud.Addendum on real piracy:
They may have been bloodthirsty and all the rest, but the story is far richer than that. I betcha didn't know that pirate ships were generally run democratically:
Presidential candidates, take note: Long before they made their way into the workings of modern government, the democratic tenets we hold so dear were used to great effect on pirate ships. Checks and balances. Social insurance. Freedom of expression. So Leeson, an economics professor at George Mason University, will argue in his upcoming book, "The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates."http://www.boston.com/bos...ryone_in_favor_say_yargh/
Yes, those stereotypically lawless rum-chuggers turned out to be ardent democrats. ...
The pirates who roamed the seas in the late 17th and early 18th centuries developed a floating civilization that, in terms of political philosophy, was well ahead of its time. The notion of checks and balances, in which each branch of government limits the other's power, emerged in England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But by the 1670s, and likely before, pirates were developing democratic charters, establishing balance of power on their ships, and developing a nascent form of worker's compensation