From a legal perspective there is a neat "Special Effect" in every film.
It is in the tiresome small print, usually in the credits but sometimes even before the movie begins, which warns against unlawful copying.
The special effect is to insert the word "criminal" in to complement the word "civil" when mentioning the forms of liability. It really does have a supercharging effect.
However, mere infringement of copyright is not a criminal act.
There are indeed criminal sanctions contained in the relevant UK legislation: the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. These are generally in respect of the wrongful distribution of copyright material, usually on some commercial basis.
But the private end user copying a copyright work for personal use is not a criminal; he or she is not a thief; their wrongful act is not theft.
As Tim O'Reilly has pointed out, the right term is copyright infringement.
At this point, the vested interests - showing their legal illiteracy - will suggest that I am suggesting that it is somehow alright to infringe copyright.
I am not. An infringement of copyright is still wrong; more precisely it is a wrong, for copyright infringement is a tort and a wrong is what the word tort actually means.
Of course someone committing a tort - the wonderful legal word is tortfeasor - should pay compensation, just as the negligent driver pays compensation to a victim.
I do not support copyright infringement any more that I support negligent driving; but just because it is a wrong, it doesn't mean you can pretend it is also a criminal offence.
And the compensation should correspond to the money lost had the tort not been committed, which for copyright infringement will be the equivalent of a licence fee.
Many people would, I suspect, happily (correct meaning) pay an appropriate licence fee for using copyright material, if only the media content providers would make the works more easily available.
The media content providers are wedded to a commercial model which means they want to pick and choose when to make content available to the public; but the technology and ease of file replication is against them.
It cannot be a pleasant experience, but they are not being set upon by a band of thieves; they are instead suffering a mass tresspass.
I have written before that making money out of recorded music may well turn out to be a hundred year blip in the millennia of the history of music.
(I also suspect that the prevalence of the three minute popular song and half-hour album may also soon cease to exist, as it was only the 45" and 33" vinyl records which made such timings the standard.)
The commercial models may change - and innovations such as Spotify seem to show that the models are changing - and so there may still be a way of making money from recorded music in the copy-and-paste era.
In the meantime, it would be good to hear fewer accusations against end-users that they are thieves.
However, this is not the first time that anxious "property" owners have used the vocabulary of criminal law to deter those likely to commit torts.
For, contrary to all those threatening roadside signs, individual trespassers will not be prosecuted.
Simple trespass to normal private land per se is a tort not an offence.
But they wouldn't want you to know that would they?