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Stewart v The Queen (1988), 50 DLR (4th), 1 SCC.

Facts:

Facts: P attempted to copy down confidential information by bribing a security guard who didn't have authorization. He was charged with fraud.

Issue(s):

Is private information property for the purpose of criminal law?

Ratio:

Confidential information should not be, for policy reasons, considered as property by the Courts for the purposes of the law of theft.

Analysis:

CCC 283(1) Everyone commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes... or converts to his own use... anything whether animate or inanimate.
-This includes intangibles such as credit card information (R v Scallen)
-This doesn't include information (R v Offley)

The term "anything" can only include:
1.That with a nature capable of being subject to a property right
2.That which can be converted in a way that deprives the victim
-Intangible things can only be converted not taken.
--Someone is not deprived of information because someone else knows.
--Confidentiality may be lost but that is not the thing owned in the first place.

In civil law, information like trade secrets are treated much like property law (Aas v Benham).
-This can be justified either with reference to property or good faith (I.e. fiduciary obligation (Peter Pan Manufacturing)

Criminal law is about the public's interest. Here is why it is not in their interest to treat info like property:
-Free flow of information is in public's interest
-Person would be guilty of theft newly every day they didn't forget it
-May restrict mobility of labour
-Too many unanswered questions that Parliament should answer

Holding:

Appeal successful. Verdict quashed.


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