Yet Another Court Rules That Digital Data Is Not Property
from the pure-information dept
Back in March, we reported on an interesting case where a UK court ruled that information stored electronically is not property. Now senior judges in New Zealand have agreed (found via @superglaze), as the Lexology site explains:
Jonathan Dixon, the Queenstown bouncer who accessed CCTV footage of the England Rugby Captain in a bar during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, appealed his conviction for dishonestly obtaining property on the basis that the digital data did not come under the definition of ‘property’ in the Crimes Act. The New Zealand Court of Appeal yesterday agreed (but substituted his conviction with one of dishonestly obtaining a benefit).
Lexology goes on to explain:
The accepted legal position is that confidential information is not property, but protected by the law from abuse, as a matter of ‘conscience’ arising from the circumstances in which the information was obtained. The New Zealand Court of Appeal considered that a computer file’s “stored sequence of bytes available to a computer program or operating system? cannot meaningfully be distinguished from pure information”, and therefore was not ‘property’ for the purposes of the Crimes Act.
Although two court cases do not make a definitive answer, it’s significant that they were in different, albeit related, jurisdictions, and that the judges based their decisions on very different legislation. It certainly adds fuel to the already heated debate about whether it is possible in any sense to “steal” digital files containing copyright material.