Finlo Rohrer in BBC News Magazine
But if it can be interpreted as illegal, can it be truly said to be immoral?
Heavy downloading might affect the unsecured person’s speed of access or download limit, but a use like checking an e-mail is hardly likely to be noticed. Most “victims” will suffer no loss.
Philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, says with technology moving rapidly, socially-accepted moral positions can be slow to solidify.
“I haven’t thought about it. I’m not sure anybody has. It might be one of those areas where cultural norms haven’t evolved or stabilised yet. It’s so new it’s not clear whether it’s stealing or not. And sometimes the law trails public norms.
“If you steal a silver Mont Blanc pen it’s theft but if it’s an ordinary ballpoint pen or a pencil it is assumed you can take it.
“In the olden days people had norms about whether you were able to pick apples from someone else’s tree. Perhaps it’s OK if the branches hang over the road, but not from inside their garden. You have generally shared expectations.”