Stealing things according to the "If value, then right" theory

Siva Vaidhyanathan's book The Anarchist in the Library identifies a theory implicit in much of the copyright wars called, "If value, then right." It holds that if something has some value, then the person who made it has a right to be compensated for using that value.

For example, your DVDs have value as discs you put in a player, which you pay for when you buy them at a store. But when you rip the disc and put it on a portable player, then you realize some new value. According to "if value, then right," the studio that made the DVD has the right to be compensated for that new value. Otherwise, you're stealing.

Exploring this idea, David "Everything is Miscellaneous" Weinberger has compiled a list of "20 things I’ve stolen" according to the "If value, then right" theory.


I took an extra napkin from a Taco Bell for unspecified use “later.”

I sat on a bench on a hot day, enjoying the breeze as the man next to me fanned himself.

I read the headlines of a newspaper that was for sale in a kiosk box.

I divided a single-serving DingDong in two, and had it for dessert on two consecutive days.

I listened all the way through to a Metallica song emanating from my neighbor’s radio, but closed my window when the commercial came on.

I remembered the movie times in my newspaper from the day before so I wouldn’t have to buy a copy of the paper today.

When a friend’s cat chose my lap to sit in, I petted it, precisely to discourage it from moving to the lap of its rightful owner.

I said “What a long, strange trip it’s been” without air quotes.

On the Amtrak “quiet car,” I listened to a man in the seat ahead of me explaining to the bored woman next to him how he gets such a great shine on his shoes. I have since used his technique, successfully.

I have stared carefully at reproductions of great paintings.

20 things I’ve stolen