Hey! You dropped something!

If it’s not yours…

My daughter is now on her third ‘Razor’ scooter.

The first was taken from the backyard. Based on the timing, I suspect one of the lawn guys but… The second was taken while Marilyn was at the park, having turned her back for a few minutes as kids will do.

I got to thinking about this again because of all the news about the lost/stolen iPhone prototype. If you aren’t keeping up on tech news, an Apple employee managed to leave a prototype of Apple’s next generation mobile phone in a bar. By the time he realized his error, the phone had been taken by another bar patron. The phone finder then sold the prototype to the tech blog Gizmodo. Gizmodo then published details of the prototype’s features and circled their legal wagons to defend their actions.

Finders keepers, losers weepers is a widely accepted policy regarding property and ownnership.

Once it was “determined that yes, the item in question was the real deal, the discourse regarding the phone shifted to the legal issues pertinent to finding, losing, stealing, receiving, and returning other people’s property. Yesterday, Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home was raided and his computers and other tech gadgets were seized.

Much of the discussion assumes the old premise “Finders keepers, loser weepers,” and then proceeds to outline how far the law will go to protect you from crossing over from asshole to thief. Let’s be clear here. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are an asshole. If you are the kind of person who is OK with relying on the law to determine whether you are an asshole or not, you’re an asshole.

Here’s a policy for grownups. If it’s not yours, don’t f*** with it.

“I didn’t know it was yours.”
“I didn’t realize it was valuable.”
“It didn’t seem to belong to anyone.”
“I didn’t ask him where he got it.”
“Finders keepers, losers weepers.”

Bullshit. You took it. You’re an asshole.

I actually had the thought when Marilyn’s scooter was stolen from the park, that I didn’t want to find it in someone else’s possession because I might have to listen to some of the above defenses and become enraged. As you can tell from the tone of this little article, I am having issues with becoming enraged. “Finders keepers, losers weepers” is a widely accepted policy regarding property and ownnership. Here’s one for grownups. “If it’s not yours, don’t f*** with it.”

Another example. If you steal someone else’s idea and copyright it before they do, preventing them from benefiting from their idea, then it’s legally your idea… and you are an asshole. In fact, our legal system provides an important meta service. We can spend countless hours wrangling the finer points of the law, come to a conclusion, and call it justice. No need to have to actually utter the words, “I took something that wasn’t mine.”

In the movie Office Space, Jennifer Aniston’s character is trying to get a handle on the legality of a money making scheme her boyfriend (Ron Livingston) has just admitted to participating in. She asks him, “So the money’s yours then?” to which he painfully replies, “It… becomes ours.”

Guy flys a plane into the IRS building a few weeks back. Will we call him a terrorist or is he just a regular bad guy? Hours back and forth. What is he legally? Don’t know, don’t care. What is he morally? He’s an asshole.

So now the California district attorney and probably the ACLU (was the seizure legal?) will give us a legal pronouncement on the intricacies and ramifications of finding a phone and not being able to say, “Hey bartender, somebody left this here. Maybe they’ll come back for it.”