Those who are not interested in the topic of the legal boundaries around the use of a Protel license are advised to skip this message.

At 04:58 AM 9/9/2003, JaMi Smith wrote:
At the risk of being flamed on, I actually believe that I can bring this
topic to a very short conclusion.

Perhaps. I will be relatively brief. Mr. Smith posts references to California law, Penal Code Section 502, which, while it could be read to apply to any copying of software without permission, does not appear to be intended for that, as can be seen from the introduction to the section. I don't have ready access to case law to see if the section has been used for this purpose. The "California law" provision of the Protel software license is not relevant to this discussion.


Most of what I wrote in this thread was a contradiction of the common reference to software "piracy" as "theft." It is true that the law may consider the right to deny public use of a program to be a thing which can be "stolen," when, say, the copied program is distributed, but I very much doubt that this redefinition could be a legitimate part of a criminal prosecution for a single act of unauthorized copying. Criminal law is strictly construed. The Code calls computer crime (unpermitted access to data, etc.) to be a "public offense," which is the correct terminology. In other sections, it calls theft "theft."

Cable TV "Signal Theft" of a kind analogous to unauthorized personal use of software (i.e., having a subscription to a cable service and using an unauthorized decoder to access premium services) appears to be a misdemeanor. Selling the boxes appears to be a public offense (if I'm correct, public offenses are prosecutable as felonies). Relevant to the interests of printed circuit designers, printed circuit boards are specifically mentioned.

And please don't be so ridiculous as to try and say that making a copy to
take home without permission for your own personal use or your own
commercial use in performing work for yet again someone else is within the
normal scope of your employment.

... a defense attorney might very well argue that the software was taken home in order to sharpen the alleged offender's skill at using the program. More to the point, one who intended to use the software for outside purposes could first obtain permission to install it on his own notebook, perhaps for educational purposes or for doing extra work at home for his employer. Then, taking the notebook home, he'd be secure from prosecution under even the farthest stretch of Section 502 even if he subsequently used the computer for other work. I'm not saying it would not be an offense of some kind, but Section 502, no. His act of copying was lawful. True, a hotshot prosecutor might try to claim that running the software later would cause it to be copied from the hard drive to RAM, and that this was "copying without permission." I don't think it would fly in court, the law was not written for that.


Unauthorized copying of copyrighted or other proprietary material, outside of fair use, is definitely considered by the law an offense against the public interest, and under some circumstances is criminal. But it's not theft.



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