The Patry Copyright blog has posted details of an interesting copyright case
: United States v. Chalupnik. It doesn't, strictly speaking, have anything to do with hoaxes, except that it raises the question of whether there actually was a crime committed, or whether it's an example of a big corporation trying to invent a crime. Here are the facts, as summarized by William Patry:
defendant was an employee for the U.S. Postal Service. BMG Columbia House is a mail order operation selling CDs and DVDs by mail. Many of these discs are undeliverable. Rather than pay the postage to have them returned to it, BMG Columbia House instructed the Postal Service to throw them away. The Postal Service did throw them away. Defendant then retrieved them from the trash and sold them to area stores, netting $78,818. A surveillance camera showed defendant retrieving the items and he was arrested; he was originally charged with felony mail theft, but then pleaded guilty to misdemeanor copyright infringement. The trial court sentenced defendant to two years probation and ordered him to pay $78,818 to BMG in restitution. Chalupnik appealed.
So the guy took the CDs out of the trash
and resold them, prompting BMG to complain that he had caused them lost sales. Does this mean that if I threw away a box full of my books, I could sue anyone who found them in the trash and sold them? That doesn't seem to make sense. After all, I threw them away, presumably forfeiting my ownership of them.
The court overturned the defendant's sentence on appeal -- but it sounds as if he still might face some other form of sentencing.
The complicating factor here is that he was a post office employee, and thus was obligated to honor the post office's promise to BMG that it would actually throw away the material.