A legal concept that treats and protects the creative products of the human mind as carefully as the law would treat and protect one’s physical property, such as a home and the land that it sits on. In short, IP laws grant certain kinds of exclusive rights to the developers of creative products such as software, games, hardware, movies, books, songs, and so on. According to IP laws, the developers of creative products should have the first rights to the sale and/or distribution of these products, just as an owner of a property should have the first rights to the sale and/or distribution of his or her property.
A number of cases have been publicized in recent years regarding infringements of IP, particularly around online song swapping and the denial of royalties to artists. An alleged crime against IP does not always have an artistic aspect, however. For example, on February 3, 2005, Andrew Mata, a government employee charged with cracking the Department of Social Services Website in 1999, was cleared by a jury of any wrongdoing. Though Mata was charged with illegally entering the computer system to upgrade his access privileges after he left the Department of Social Services for a job in the Department of Health and Hospitals—a crime, it was argued, against Intellectual Property—Mata said in his defense that he changed his access back to where he thought it should have been when he moved to the Department of Health and Hospitals, though he was supposed to have the same privilege status on both departments’ computer systems. The jury believed Mata. He walked away from a potential five-year jail term.
Schell, B.H. and Martin, C. Contemporary World Issues Series: Cybercrime: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004; The Associated Press. State Worker Acquitted of Hacking Government Computer. [Online, February 3, 2005.] Tuscaloosa News Website. http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/apps/pbcs/d11/article?AID=/20050203/APN/ 502030742.