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Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle

Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle: Theft Law in the Information Age

Stuart P. Green
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle
    Book Description:

    Theft causes greater economic injury than any other criminal offense. Yet fundamental questions about what should count as stealing remain unresolved. Green assesses our legal framework at a time when our economy commodifies intangibles (intellectual property, information, ideas, identities, and virtual property) and theft grows more sophisticated.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06503-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    The crime of theft holds a prominent place in our law and in our culture. It claims more victims and causes greater economic injury, and it may well be committed by a larger number of offenders, than any other criminal offense.¹ The act of stealing—of unlawfully treating tuum as meum—entails one of the most basic wrongs a person can do to another. It seems likely that prohibitions on theft have been with us for as long as people have made laws and laid claim to property; it is hard to imagine any organized society without them.

    Yet theft...

  6. ONE Theft Law Adrift
    (pp. 8-68)

    Of all the reforms in Anglophone criminal law achieved during the twentieth century, few were as radical in form or as widespread in their impact as those involving the offense of theft. At common law, the means by which a theft was committed, as well as the type of property taken, was of great consequence. Starting in the early 1700s, British (and, later, American, Canadian, and Australian) courts and legislatures began drawing sharp distinctions among offenses such as robbery, larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses, extortion, blackmail, fraudulent conversion, cheating, receiving stolen property, and failing to return lost property. Each offense had...

  7. TWO The Gist of Theft
    (pp. 69-131)

    As discussed in the previous chapter, the law of property crimes in Anglophone jurisdictions experienced a radical transformation during the twentieth century—from a loose collection of common law offenses like larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses, and extortion, to what is, in essence, a single, consolidated offense of theft. Such consolidation had the effect of flattening or homogenizing the moral content of theft law so that long-standing and venerable distinctions between offenses were uncritically discarded, sometimes with unforeseen and poorly thought-through consequences.

    My claim about this second metamorphosis in theft law needs to be examined in more detail. The question is...

  8. THREE Theft as a Crime
    (pp. 132-202)

    Imagine that Tom steals Owen’s bicycle and thereby violates some collection of Owen’s property rights. Under what circumstances, if any, should the law impose criminal sanctions on Tom rather than simply require him to return the bike or pay some other form of compensation? Although theft has an obvious claim to being an offense within the “core” of criminal law,¹ its criminalization is nevertheless puzzling. Theft proper involves none of the violent assaults on life, limb, or bodily integrity that characterize murder, rape, and battery. What is at stake in theft are rights in property. Is theft really the kind...

  9. FOUR Property in Theft Law
    (pp. 203-269)

    Virtually all of the cases of theft I have considered so far, both real and imagined, have involved the stealing of a tangible good—whether it was bicycles, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the Arbeit macht frei sign at Auschwitz, three pieces of bubble gum, a prototype iPhone, a fresh baguette, or a teddy bear left as a memorial to Princess Diana. All of these items have been the sort of thing that can be physically touched, carried away, and bought or sold.

    But what about cases in which the item said to be stolen isn’t a physical thing...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 270-276)

    In this book, I have sought to develop an account of the theoretical foundations of theft law. My method has to been to focus on those problems that seemed to me most in need of analysis: I have not sought to cover theft law doctrine comprehensively; nor have I endeavored to develop a full-scale proposal for reform. Nevertheless, I have been unsparing in my criticism of others’ attempts at theft law reform, and a reader might well wonder whether I could do any better. I believe I can, and toward that end I now offer a “how-to” guide for writing...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 279-372)
  12. Index
    (pp. 373-382)