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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Source Code Theft Isn’t Offence

An American court has ruled that software can’t be regarded as property that may be stolen. The ruling in question was delivered in the case of Sergey Aleynikov, a Goldman Sachs programmer. He was accused of downloading source code for the investment company’s high-speed trading system from the company’s servers. Local media reports say that Aleynikov was wrongly charged with theft of property since the code wasn’t a physical object and therefore the defendant didn’t gain control of anything when he downloaded it.

In addition, the three-judge panel in New York decided that the programmer was wrongly charged with espionage, as the source code wasn’t software designed for interstate or foreign commerce. The court decision explains why the judges have handed down such a surprise ruling that reversed the defender’s conviction and sprung him from an 8-year jail sentence.

Sergey Aleynikov had admitted that he did violate the bank’s confidentiality policy when he took the source code from the firm’s servers. However, he pointed out that it wasn’t a criminal act, since the code was never used in interstate commerce. The federal appeals court has agreed and reversed the Aleynikov’s conviction.

Meanwhile, one of the things standing against Goldman Sachs’ source code as an object that could have been stolen was that the company went to great lengths to keep the source secret. The matter is that the company made huge amounts of cash by not allowing anyone else to have the source code. However, this meant that Sergey Aleynikov’s theft of source code of the company’s system wasn’t an offense.

Sergey Aleynikov earned around $400,000 annually as a vice president with Goldman Sachs. Now the company claims that he has siphoned the source code for its valuable software on his way out the door to get a job with another firm. As for Goldman Sachs, they only uncovered the theft when they started to monitor HTTPS transfers and noticed a large volume of information leaving its network. Although Sergey Aleynikov did acknowledge taking the source code, he told the federals that he only wanted to collect open source software files on which he had been working. This case can be considered a precedent for the source code thieves all around the globe

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