1 Dec 2009
I Received This At Work Today So Now I'm Stealing It
"I received an email from you earlier, entitled The Use of Unfair Means in the Assessment Process. While, in general, it seems sensible, there is one sentence which is seriously wrong. I quote: Because the use of unfair means is such a serious offence (it amounts to the theft of ideas) ... This is legally illiterate. Theft is dishonestly appropriating things with the intent to permanently deprive. Copying other peoples' ideas does not deprive them of those ideas, not even temporarily. To be clear, I'm not arguing in favour of unfair means, just that it is silly to describe it as theft of ideas (just as it would be silly to describe it as grievous bodily harm of ideas). It's not theft, it's legally entirely unrelated to theft, and one gains nothing useful by thinking of it as theft. It should not be hard to write a legally accurate account, which does not contain this incorrect statement, but which is nevertheless appropriately forbidding."