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Law Review symposium considers theft law in the information age

"Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle" author featured

(Boston, Revised-5/10/13) New England Law | Boston:  Theft is generally understood as taking something that doesn’t belong to you, but this common understanding, the Model Penal Code, and many state statutes could require more immediate updating now that the “something” being taken may be intangible. Identity theft, online hacking, and unauthorized downloads of documents and media are among the contemporary crimes that would have been unfathomable mere decades ago but are now prompting scholars and practitioners to reconsider theft law. 

Professor Stuart Green Professor and author Stuart Green
This conundrum was examined from multiple perspectives during the New England Law Review’s spring symposium, “Redefining Theft Law in the Information Age,” on March 18. The event featured Professor Stuart P. Green of Rutgers School of Law–Newark, who discussed his new book, Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle: Theft Law in the Information Age.
 
Professor Green was joined by a distinguished panel of experts to discuss the changes addressed in the book, the need for reform, and the broad areas of law such reform touches. Panelists included the Hon. Gary S. Katzmann, associate justice, Massachusetts Appeals Court; Professor Kenneth W. Simons, Boston University School of Law; and Professor Alex Steel, University New South Wales Law | Australia. Professor Peter J. Karol moderated and discussed Sony BMG Music Entertainment et al. v. Tenenbaum, in which a student was sued for illegally downloading and sharing files via a peer-to-peer file sharing service.
 
The symposium agenda and presenter bios are online and can be accessed by this link.
 
Whether it’s obtaining a neighbor’s cable TV service without permission, accessing a shop’s Wifi network from off the premises, or “catfishing” fabricated, online identities that accompany images of real people, high-tech takings are stretching traditional legal conceptions of thievery. 
 
Thirteen Ways provided a much-needed reexamination and assessment of our modern legal framework in a technological society,” said William Wynne '13, Law Review editor-in-chief, “which allows new and unique methods of criminal activity that are quickly outpacing our modern statutes.
 
“Professor Green advocated for a reform of the current structure to keep pace with the times, a modernization of community attitudes towards theft, and advancements in criminal law theory.” 
 
Wynne speculated that cases such as Tenenbaum may signal a generational shift, with millenials, who have grown up with the Internet, having a fundamentally different view of file-sharing. “That’s just one of the reasons why the Law Review believed that it was so important to discuss and vet this topic at this time,” he said.
 
“Redefining Theft” is the latest Law Review spring “paper symposium.” Each paper symposium focuses on a recent book that promises to make a significant contribution to legal discourse, followed by an entire issue of the Law Review comprised of articles by leading academics and judges that is published in response to that book.
 
Volume 47, number 4, to be published later this year, will feature contributions by Professor Karol, who will elaborate on the Tenenbaum case, and Professor Simons, who will be joined by Professor Susan W. Brenner, University of Dayton School of Law; Professor David Gray, Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland; and Professor Mary Sigler, Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law, Arizona State University.


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