Is copyright infringement a kind of theft?

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great insight of what is the different between copyright infringement and theft. below article I quoted from quora

No. Infringement and theft are not the same thing. Infringement of intellectual property rights, such as the unauthorized copying of copyrighted works, gives rise to money damages, based on theoretical lost sales (which can be the subject of vigorous debate), and injunctive relief (i.e., stop copying). Theft is depriving a person (or company) of possession of an item of value, often to “fence” or sell it for cash.

The difference is obvious: If I steal your car, you no longer have it, and are deprived of the value of owning it. If I rip a copy of your CD, I haven’t stolen it from you, nor have I stolen it from the record company. What I have done is made an unauthorized copy, depriving everyone in the value chain of the music business of apotential sale, generating potential income for everyone from the songwriter to the retail store owner.

Most thoughtful people immediately see through RIAA and MPAA’s damages arguments that every unauthorized copy of a CD or DVD represents a lost sale. Trying to claim that amount of damages is disingenuous, and frankly hurts the labels’ and studios’ causes because it appears greedy and overreaching to the public. In economic terms, every unauthorized copy is causing financial damage equal to the product of:

  1. The lowest actual sale price available to the consumer (Amazon, iTunes, etc.), times
  2. The probability that the consumer would actually buy an authorized copy (taking into account budget constraints and competing priorities), which could be extremely low for certain types of pirated goods (e.g., $800 software packages traded by 7th-graders), and
  3. Some kind of multiplier taking into account the possibility that copies-of-copies may be made illegally.

I’m sure economists and lawyers have put a lot of thought into this, but the bottom line is that making an illegal copy of something is clearly not equivalent to stealing it. I think this explains why for generations, otherwise law-abiding people haven’t felt particularly guilty about making copies of everything from chapters out of books to sheet music to MP3 tracks. Copyright infringement is clearly unlawful, but its morality or immorality is more of a gray area in which “where you stand depends on where you sit.”


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