Stop Thieving Thief!

Someone stole my sister’s computer from a study room last week. I think computer theft is one of the lowest type of thefts someone can commit. Computers are used to create and access information, but more importantly, they are used to store information. Stealing a computer is not like stealing a car. A car and its contents can be replaced with money (the law calls this an “adequate remedy at law”). Conversely, theft of intellectual property such as notes, documents, emails, etc. causes irreparable harm. The theft of a laptop for the laptop itself (where the thief is not going to use the information contained therein) is particularly bad, in my opinion, because it is economically regressive; the laptop is worth much more to the original owner than to the thief. (Contrast with a situation where the laptop is being stolen for its contents. In one sense this is a bigger crime because the thief has taken more for himself, but at least the value of the information is utilized and not destroyed.)
Despite the high damage and relatively low reward of laptop theft, it seems to happen all the time. I had a laptop stolen from an office, my sister had one stolen from a study room, and I’ve heard of about four similar thefts occurring at the law school this year. To the thieves: steal my money or my stereo, but don’t take my notes. (You won’t get my laptop anyway, because I take it with me when I go to the bathroom – I wish I didn’t have to do that.) To everyone else reading this: back up your computer right now.
Finally, the utility of computers and cars is important too, and it can certainly be an inconvenience to go without the things to which you’ve become accustomed. Upon calling Dell to order a new computer, my sister was asked, “You can do all of this online, you know?” She replied, “I know, but that would require a computer, which is the reason I’m calling…” Maybe Dell needs to put down the bong.