Expensive and Disturbing

A Goldman Sachs trader who, when leaving the company, uploaded a copy of Goldman’s high frequency trading (HFT) software to a server, after which he then downloaded it to his home computer. He was leaving to join a startup that was going to — surprise, surprise — peddle some competing HFT software. Today, he was acquitted:

A federal appeals court has thrown out the conviction of a former Goldman Sachs programmer who stole source code from the firm’s high-frequency trading (HFT) system. The court holds that the defendant’s actions did not fit the definitions of the federal crimes for which he had been convicted. “We decline to stretch or update statutory words of plain and ordinary meaning in order to better accommodate the digital age,” the court wrote. [link]

This is disturbing. The court is unwilling to acknowledge that this was indeed theft because he did not try and sell it elsewhere. Because of this oversight on the courts (and it seems this is not the only one), it will only make it harder on employees, as the burden of protecting intellectual property increasingly falls on the employers. That makes it more expensive in terms of time, money and added inconvenience to everyone. From the same Ars article I quoted above:

On Tuesday, another court threw out an effort to prosecute employees who misuse legally-obtained corporate data under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Thanks to these rulings, employers will bear a larger share of the burden of policing the misuse of their confidential information.

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