In which Jack Valenti argues:
Simply put, theft is theft, whether one pilfers a videocassette from a Blockbuster store, or distributes bootleg software or "knock-off" Pentium chips, or downloads a movie from the Web without any compensation to its creators.
Save that there is a big difference between a legislative grant of privilege like copyright and a common law crime like theft. As some of us learned in Law1 "Theft is the taking and asportation of the personal property of another with intent to permanently deprive him of same."
Assume that I buy a copy of Lee Greenwood's CD American Patriot, take it to my home, burn a copy on my personal computer, and leave both disks in my computer's two drives. I (may) have committed an offense against the Copyright Act. But is it theft?
1. Taking -- No taking. The original CD and the copy have not undergone any change in posession. I posessed them before the crime and I posess them now.
2. Asportation -- No asportation. The original CD and the copy have not been moved anywhere. They are in the exact same location they were before I committed the copyright offense.
3. Personal property -- The only personal property in the room at the time of the offense -- the computer, the CD, and the CD-R -- is mine.
4. Intent to deprive -- No one has been deprived of anything that they previously posessed so I must have lacked intent to deprive.
Hence no crime of theft.
Theft is malum in se. Wrong in itself.
Copyright violation is classic malum prohibitum. Wrong because prohibited. No moral turpitude attaches.
What's the difference? Well you won't be sent to hell for a malum prohibitum crime. It's not wrong, just illegal.
So those 55 million felons who used Napster don't have to worry about the fires of eternal damnation.