Recently the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association, of which my employer is a member) has announced a new policy to not speak of "intellectual property". The organization believes that the term has been perverted to make ideas and content equivalent (and in some cases superior) to physical property.
The CEA's position is that the US Constitution defines patents and copyrights. One can violate patent law, and one can violate copyright law, but you can't be prosecuted for simply "stealing" intellectual property.
The CEA has shown examples where a person downloaded music over the Internet and made copies for personal use, and was successfully sued by the RIAA for $150k. They also show examples of somebody attempting to steal a physical CD, getting detected at the door, returning it and getting a warning. They make the point that downloading music can have a higher penalty than stealing a car. And the RIAA wants the federal government to police and enforce the situation for them.
At a recent conference the RIAA spokesperson said that it was a matter of morality and ethics. That it would be immoral to condone or ignore theft, since it could undermine our society. As a response one of the attendees read some foul Gangsta Rap lyrics from a RIAA label. "This is the RIAA's morality", said the attendee.
The bottom line is that the CEA does not want people prosecuted for downloading stuff and making personal copies. People who crack codes, distribute and profit from copyrighted material, however, should be prosecuted for copyright violations. People who use patents without agreements from patent holders can be sued for patent infringement. But making copies for personal use, or having the ability to copy content for fair use should not be considered theft.
Anyway, it's an interesting position. It intends to protect consumers and those who make tools for consumers. And it intends to allow use of the law against those who profit illegally from copyrighted and patented content and ideas.
There is no such thing as intellectual property theft? What'ya think?