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Undergraduate honors thesis / Opt-Out
Virtual theft is the stealing of intangible items, such as downloading music, illicitly streaming movies, and obtaining other pieces of intellectual property. Is this a moral / ethical thing to do? In this paper, I explore the issues from multiple perspectives, namely legal, ethical, and Halachic. To this end, I begin by defining Intellectual Property, so as to clearly understand the basis of the discussion. I digress and discuss what theft typically means, even of material goods. Next, I discuss the many concrete laws protecting intellectual property in the United States. Practically, I discuss three different types of intellectual property (music, movies, software) together with legal cases in which the intellectual property laws have been violated. These and other example cases help further explain the application and parameters of the laws.¶ Once we’ve understood the legal implications of virtual theft, theft of intellectual property and goods that are not material are not the only type of virtual theft, even though that is the main focus of my paper. To round out the discussion, I also define and discuss cyber crimes, robbing someone of their money stored in a virtual account or stealing classified information about a company from their records. Some of these crimes are more tangible than others, and the legal, ethical, and halachic implications may vary.¶ Up to this point, I’ve discussed the legal and practical applications of intellectual property laws, but we could also take a step back to consider the ethical / philosophical approaches, such as whether someone could really own information, applied to to different kinds of virtual theft. To further this point, I also discuss Sci Hub, which is a seemingly virtuous attempt at evading copyright restrictions, which demonstrates that some have a different approach to the ethics of intellectual property. Relatedly, I next discuss different Jewish ethical and Halachic principles regarding intellectual property and theft. I do this by considering a few practical cases as Halacha pertains to them. I also tried to gauge contemporary attitudes towards such intellectual property theft by conducting a survey. In this way, I explore the topic of intellectual property theft from a range of perspectives, and come to my own conclusions on the matter.
Hirt, H. (2022, April 28). Virtual Theft. Undergraduate honors thesis, Yeshiva University.
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