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Do Not Steal

My mind just went on a tangent a little bit ago, and I felt it was a good excuse to write a blog post for the first time in almost a month. It really all stems from an example that is actually at the end of the post, but I take a path threw the bible to get to my point…

I got to thinking about stealing.

Stealing in my mind is a very interesting concept. Almost every major culture out there includes some rule about not taking things from others, etc. It is so important that God made it one of the 10 commandments.

We all know it sucks when someone takes something from us without asking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a physical item, an idea, or just a “word” we considered ours. We have come to accept that taking certain things, or taking from certain people is acceptable. Looking at my own life, I’m sure the #1 thing people steal from me is “Time”, which is also probably the most acceptable thing by the public to steal. I’m also sure I’m 100% ok with it, and that it’s also probably the thing I steal most from other people. Then there’s things in the grey area of movies, music, and ideas. And then there are the things we all seem to agree are just wrong… Like money… No one wants their money stolen.

But in all honesty… There is something about stealing that I can’t quite figure out. It’s hard to explain, but let me continue and maybe the contradiction will appear as I rant. Let’s start with the following sentence:

Stealing implies taking something from someone.

Let’s change the world view here a little bit, and assume that nothing on Earth is truly ours. So to make up for that, the sentence becomes:

Stealing implies taking something from someone who thinks what your taking belongs to them.

So if something is stolen, someone else (besides the theif) must believe it belongs to them…

Now, this is where things get more interesting…

For me as a Christian, I believe that all things belong to God, and are given or “leased” to us by God. Ultimatley, the only person we are capable of stealing from is God, but yet, the bible generally calls that coveting or idol worship when taking it from God… So why then take the time to point it out in the 10 commandments? Does it get back to this idea of “how the other party feels about what your doing”.  Is the Bible simply trying to say to us another way, “Don’t do things that make others feel bad?”

So let’s take this concept, and see if we have a simply way to figure out what is “stealing” and what “isn’t” and apply it to my wonderfully complex example… And perhaps, maybe it will be in line with actual law… I’ll do my best to list a lot of examples with some of my thoughts and see if it leads anywhere…

I’m walking down a public street, and see a naked woman flaunting her body to you (she isn’t hiding).

  • Remembering this event in your mind
    This seems silly, but is easily acceptable by most people for this most basic example. The woman for the most part can’t really stop it anymore, and she isn’t being hurt by you remembering the event.
    Not Stealing – Most likely Legal
  • Telling a friend about the event, in detail
    Almost everyone does this, but again, most likely it wouldn’t bother the woman.
    Not stealing – Most likely Legal
  • Telling the woman’s parents about what you saw, in detail
    Now were into weird cases… The woman would most likely NOT like this because it “steals” her reputation… Or did she give it up by doing what she did? Curious how that is… By our rules above it’s probably stealing, others would argue it’s given.
    Unsure on Stealing – Most likely legal
  • Painting a picture of the woman from memory for yourself
    Now we’re getting into a fun area… A remembered event be represented artistically on paper. The woman again probably wouldn’t care because she wouldn’t know about it.
    Not stealing – Most likely Legal
  • Painting a picture of the woman from memory and distributing it
    Similiar to telling the woman’s parents. It seems the key to it mattering is the woman noticing it, or feeling it.
    Unsure on Stealing – Most likely legal
  • Taking a photograph for yourself
    Again, assuming the woman lets you take the photograph, everything is most likely ok. If she doesn’t let you take the photograph (or doesn’t know), it’s probably stealing if the woman finds out, and most likely illegal… So this could be the border line for some reason…
    Not stealing – Most likely Legal
  • Distributing a photograph you took
    Now this is where it seems to turn in both directions… This would most likely anger the woman (again assuming she didn’t given you permission to distribute). This is also where the law most likely steps in and says you went to far by using someone’s image.
    Stealing? – Most likely illegal

So you can see, the concept of stealing entirely seems to hinge on how the woman could feel in the situation, regardless of what she could have done to prevent it in the first place. So from a personal standpoint, I probably will continue to believe that stealing is taking something from someone they don’t want you to take, regardless of whether or not they really have ownership of it.

Now how do I balance what I just said, with a scenario coming in the near future for the world, hopefully me.

It’s called an eyetap.

Eyetaps are basically things that record what your eye sees.

My intentions would be to document my life, both for myself, and for anyone who wanted to see (the video could and possibly would be uploaded to the web). That said, if a person wearing an eyetap sees a naked woman on the street, and it immediatly publishes to a worldwide blog and becomes #1 on youtube, is it stealing?

Does an eyetap fall into the category of a “memory”? Therefore, it’s fair because my eye’s saw it, so can the computer… And the computer can share that memory just like I can share mine with my friends? It’s on all the time afterall? It’s not simply an intentional photograph.

Or does an eyetap fall into the category of a photograph? Something that was purposely snapped solely to remember a single event. It has a very precise intention, where as the eyetap’s is much more general.

Perhaps it all falls back to what I said before:

It only matters what the other person feels about the event.

It doesn’t matter if it’s real time or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not. If someone doesn’t want to be recorded with an eyetap, or wants to have their image removed from the eyetap’s video feed, that does seem to be what needs to be done. If someone get’s recorded and then put up on the internet without them wanting to be, an apology and request for forgiveness is due. That is of course, what would make the other person feel good right?

It makes me wish everyone realized nothing is theirs, especially information, and as such, the global norm would be to share/give everything*. But alas, that’s not the world we live in.

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  • PK July 9, 2008, 4:31 am

    Hooray, a new post from JJ!