I have been reading these arguments, back and forth, and I have to ask wtg a question: Did you read the article?
Yes I did. I didn't read the NYT article is was about but have since went back and done that too.
Re: the article you linked, it seemed quite biased and didn't make a very good argument, imo. For instance, it uses this quote from the original as central to it's argument:
“If Cyber Bob illegally downloads Digital Joe’s song from the Internet, it’s crucial to recognize that, in most cases, Joe hasn’t lost anything,” writes Green in an op-ed for The New York Times. “Yes, one might try to argue that people who use intellectual property without paying for it steal the money they would have owed had they bought it lawfully. But there are two basic problems with this contention. First, we ordinarily can’t know whether the downloader would have paid the purchase price had he not misappropriated the property. Second, the argument assumes the conclusion that is being argued for — that it is theft.”
This seems to imply that the definition of theft requires that the thief be otherwise willing to pay for the the item they're stealing, which is not a requirement when discussing IP theft. Photo-copying a book and reading it or distributing it to others has long been considered theft. (In laymans terms anyway - I don't pretend to know if legally it's always or ever been termed "theft" from a legal definition. I'm guessing so but I don't know for certain.)
Also, there is more than one definition of theft. Theft from the cable company with an unauthorized tap doesn't meet that criteria above either, but it's legally known as theft of service and generally considered theft by most people, I'm assuming anyway.
Finally, the author quotes the original article when saying it would be more appropriate to use “concepts like unauthorized use, trespass, conversion, and misappropriation”. Conversion and misappropriation are specific legal distinctions that would commonly be translated as "theft" in layman's terms, even if there is a specific distinction between them legally.
"Conversion: Any unauthorized act that deprives an owner of personal property without his or her consent."
"Misappropriation: the intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one's own use"
Is there really much a difference between being accused of theft vs. conversion or misappropriation? It might make a difference from a legal perspective but for a layman, they're essentially synonymous.
Now at the time I originally read the article I imagined - and have since discovered - that the NYT op-ed piece probably did a better job making their argument. It does do a better job but I don't think his rational is unquestionable, and again, as the original author suggests misappropriation or conversion is a better term than "theft", I'm not sure that it matters that much as a layman. If your 10 year old asks "What does misappropriation mean?" would you define it much differently than stealing?