Fri, Mar 27th 2009 9:14am
from the driven-out-of-business dept
from the just-like-the-movies dept
Still, if you were a scammer pulling such a scam, you might think that it would make sense not to pull it at the same store multiple times. But, that's exactly what two guys did last year, where they tried to hit a local restaurant's ATM for the fourth time. By that point, the manager had been alerted to look out for them, and called the police on them when they came in again. There was a bit of a mess after that, as the manager tried to pull a gun on the scammers, and there was some sort of scuffle, a gunshot, and then a car chase... but eventually the guys were arrested. So, once again: ATM makers: stop offering machines with default passwords. ATM owners: change the default password on your machines. Scammers: don't be so dumb as to try to rip off the same place multiple times (or, maybe that's what we want, since it makes them easier to catch... but it's still dumb).
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 22nd 2008 7:21am
from the are-you-kidding-me? dept
Even with plenty of people warning about how ridiculous it would be for police to get involved in searching for a stolen magic sword, it seems that hasn't stopped people from going to the police. In the past, the lawsuits have usually been for other crimes besides theft, though. We had one for illegal computer access, after a woman logged into a boyfriend's account and deleted his virtual objects. In another case, someone was charged with copyright infringement for "copying" weapons.
However, now we have a case of an actual theft charge in the Netherlands. Two kids have been convicted of theft of a (I kid you not) "virtual amulet and a virtual mask" in the game Runescape. The details are pretty scarce, but apparently the two kids "coerced" another kid to hand over the items, and to the court that's as good as theft:
"These virtual goods are goods (under Dutch law), so this is theft."I have to admit I don't know much about Runescape, but a quick look at the website mentions that it can involve "fights to the death." Does that mean we'll soon have murder charges stemming from the game? Update: Some folks in the comments have helpfully filled in some of the details that were lacking from the original article. The two kids in this case apparently beat up and threatened at knifepoint (in real life) the other kid in order to get him to give them the virtual amulet. As others in the comments point out, it sounds like they should have been charged with assault and battery, but still not theft.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 20th 2008 1:16pm
from the misplaced-blame? dept
from the this-is-still-doable? dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 8th 2008 6:35pm
from the just-a-suggestion dept
While it's a neat story of technology thwarting a theft, there are a few questions raised by the story. To be honest, the full writeup so pumps up this particular brand of irrigation controller system, that it almost sounds like an apocryphal story made up to hype up how much better this controller is than competitors (look, it's theft proof!). Also, despite the "happy ending" -- the actual thieves were not apprehended, and future thieves will simply learn to disable the wireless communications ability. In the meantime, though, it's a reminder that technology is making the job of the ordinary thief somewhat more difficult these days.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 19th 2008 12:19pm
from the is-it-really-a-crime? dept
The latest comes in a short column for Time Magazine, where the author admits that he was a WiFi "thief" for many years in his old apartment. In the article, he claims that it is against the law, noting one of the stories of someone being arrested, while quoting Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 47 of the United States Code, which deals with anybody who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access." Well, that sounds good, but there's a big problem with it. If the owner of the WiFi access point left it open, then they have, by default, authorized access to that device. So it can't possibly be a violation of that law.
Of course, there will be those who say that the owners didn't intend for the network to be open -- but that's really besides the point here. The only information a user has is does the network say: "you're welcome here" or not. If it's open, it sends out an invite that specifically says: this network is open, come use it. That's authorization, and using such a network is not "theft" in any sense.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 28th 2008 6:46pm
from the say-what-now? dept
"There are people who want to steal intellectual property. Their lobby is distributed, diffuse, but unfortunately very popular."This, ladies and gentleman, is the guy who's in charge of determining our intellectual property laws. He simply assumes that anyone who disagrees with him "wants to steal intellectual property" (which, of course, isn't possible -- you can infringe, but not steal it). But, even more to the point, the folks he's talking about are most certainly not even defending the infringement of copyrights. They're talking about trying to bring the laws more in line with what's reasonable. To paint them all with the brush of defending "stealing" isn't just wrong, it's rather obnoxious.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 20th 2008 7:31am
from the more-than-just-a-semantic-argument dept
Healy comes out on the balanced side himself, suggesting that infringement is close enough to theft. He does so by comparing it to "theft of service" for cable companies, and noting that "you're still acquiring something of value without paying for it, and you're doing it without the seller's permission." This is a commonly used argument, and seems reasonable at a first pass, but I'd like to address why it's incorrect. Just because you acquire something of value for free (and without the original seller's permission) it doesn't automatically make it "theft." Let's run through some examples:
- I go to the pizza shop and they offer me a free soda with two slices. The soda has value, but I just got it for free, and did so without Coca-Cola granting permission. I don't think anyone would claim this is stealing or even wrong or immoral.
- My friend lets me borrow a book, which I read. The book has value. I got it for free, without the permission of the book author or publisher.
- I get on a train and pick up the newspaper that a passenger left behind. The newspaper has value. I got it for free, without the newspaper company granting permission. I don't think anyone would claim that's stealing.
- I go to the beach. The people sitting next to me are playing music on their stereo, that I can hear. The music has value, but I just got it for free, without the permission of the record label.
- I go see "Shakespeare in the Park." I get to see something of great value for free, without permission of William Shakespeare.
- Verizon sees that Sprint is going to announce an "all you can eat plan" and decides to introduce its own similar plan. Verizon got that idea for a bundle from Sprint for "free" and certainly without Sprint's permission. Yet, we call that competition, not stealing.
In fact, each "but, this is different because" explanation for the examples above can easily be turned around to prove the point that copyright is different than real property -- because it applies the same rules differently and deals with fundamentally different types of goods or services. What it really comes down to, yet again, is that this is a business model problem. For years, an industry that relied on artificial scarcity is discovering that it's hard to keep that artificial barrier in place. It can't pretend something is scarce when it's really infinite -- and trying to limit it will only backfire in the long run. What you need to do, instead, is figure out new business models that embrace the infinite nature of the goods, and focus on selling additional scarce goods, preferably additional scarce goods that are made even more valuable by freeing up the infinite good.