Admittedly, in this instance it’s an ISP making the case, and they have a vested interest in online piracy not being legally classified as “theft” in the sense we understand it for physical goods.


Points to consider:

  1. If we don’t apply the word “theft” to online piracy, can we then apply it to, for example, the unauthorised distribution of naked photos? This is a bit of an uncomfortable one for me to think about, because I’m of the “piracy is not theft” mind… but also the “stealing nude photos is theft” mind. Yet the positions would seem to be logically incompatible; the same argument that makes the former not!theft (the original copy of the digital item remains intact) also holds true for the second. So. Stealing (taking? copying?) private photos and other documents is still some kind of crime (as is piracy, for that matter)… but maybe that crime isn’t “theft” per se.
  2. One of the things that tends to get glossed over in discussions about making ISPs enforce anti-piracy takedowns, is that it’s essentially Step #1 in government-mandated, active–and overt, as opposed to the covert stuff that goes on now–global surveillance of the Internet use of its citizens. If ISPs are monitoring your every online move for even the tiniest whiff of BitTorrent, does it set a precedent–either legal or social–that can be leveraged for other purposes, e.g. censorship? And at whose behest is this occurring? We’re used to thinking of ubiquitous dystopian surveillance carried out by the government, but anti-piracy enforcement is actually a type of corporate surveillance; the government has in-and-of-itself no stake in preventing online piracy, except inasmuch as it agitates political donors and other cronies. They are the lever that can enforce it, but they’re not the hand that pulls it.