If you saw someone light up a joint, would you feel it your civic duty to inform on them? I suppose it all comes down to your ethical beliefs. As for myself, I draw the line of "informing" well beyond copyright infringement.
I'll just note that using a term like "online theft" shows your bias. I doubt you'll agree as it has become a pervasive bias. The term "intellectual property" is another example of the bias. Nothing was "stolen". A student violated the contract that they entered into when they purchased that CD (presumably). That is not "theft".
Assuming that the analogy between property and (so called) "intellectual property" is a strong one really closes your mind to a lot of ways of thinking about the situation. Talking somebody out of buying a car isn't the same thing as stealing a car from the manufacturor. Loaning someone your car isn't the same as talking somebody out of buying a car. Go ahead, make a copy of your car and see if anyone acuses you of stealing a car from the manufacturor because now you have two cars but you only bought one.
The reasons for copyright are much different than the reasons for making theft illegal.
Now, I'm not at all trying to argue that "it isn't really stealing, so there is nothing wrong with it". There are plenty of things that aren't stealing that are plenty wrong. But if you can't think of this in terms other than "stealing", then there just isn't much point in discussing it.
If we can step away from the legalese for a bit, and technical words like 'felony' and 'misdemeano(u)r', which seem to belong chiefly to the US justice system, we may get some clarity.
The non-lawyer understands by 'theft' the attempt by one party to deprive another of what is rightfully theirs.
Merlyn's income from sales of his work is certainly rightfully his. There are contracts to say so.
Therefore, if anyone comes into possession of his work (that cost money to buy) by not paying for it, they have stolen from him (and his associates) the revenue from the sale of an equivalent product. Just because the physical object has not been stolen does not mean that the author has not been deprived of what is rightfully his.
Fine, if you'd prefer a felony, how about selling marijuana?
My point is that you are already comparing apples and oranges. "Online theft" (as you call it) is not comparable to physical burglary, despite what Metallica would like you to believe.
> > > "Online theft" (as you call it) is not comparable to physical burglary, despite what Metallica would like you to believe.
Intellectual property can (and does) translate directly into food on the table as well as free time to work on fun projects. Reducing somebody's ability to earn income from their work is equivalent to taking their cash or their time.
As an author, you probably wouldn't miss the $0.50 from one particular sale. But as you said, it isn't a tangible stereo, it's intangible data; the value depends entirely on what people are willing to pay for it.
If there is an attitude that your work is not respected, including your wishes for how it's shared, the existing trust (that you the author will be able to continue making a living as an author; that others will not copy your work and call it their own) will go out the window.
These ideas are bastardized from The Cathedral and the Bazaar which you can (and should) read at the above link. This part is particularly relevant to the discussion of trust among programmers.
Sending the offender a (possibly anonymous) email pointing out his error might be gentler than blowing the whistle, esp. if it was done without malace, he didn't realize it was visible outside his site-licence area, misunderstood the copyright, etc.