Is intellectual property infringement a property crime?

This isn’t a field in which I can claim expertise, but I thought this paper by my friends Irina Manta and Rob Wagner was clever:

Intellectual Property Infringement as Vandalism

Defenders of strong intellectual property rights often maintain that intellectual property infringement is theft, and that the sanctions associated with it ought to be high. Others are skeptical of the property comparison and think that much lower sanctions are appropriate. We argue that a careful analysis demonstrates: 1) that intellectual property infringement can be analogized to a property crime, but 2) that the more analogous crime is vandalism or trespass rather than theft. This categorization takes the rhetorical punch out of the property comparison.

In addition to analyzing the natures of the various offenses, this Essay investigates the sanction regimes for different property violations and finds that not only are maximum statutory sanctions generally higher for intellectual property infringement than for vandalism and trespass, they are usually also higher than for theft. Bringing intellectual property infringement in line with property offenses, therefore, would actually surprisingly result in a lowering of sanctions.

The paper includes a giant table comparing the penalties for theft and vandalism in every jurisdiction.

Will Baude is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where he teaches constitutional law and federal courts. His recent articles include Rethinking the Federal Eminent Domain Power, (Yale Law Journal, 2013), and Beyond DOMA: State Choice of Law in Federal Statutes, (Stanford Law Review, 2012).

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