I recently posed a hypothetical to a lawyer who deals with software licensing (His role is to protect a company from accidentally misusing FOSS software) and got a startling response. My hypothetical was this: "If a thief breaks into your house and steals a floppy disk from you desk, is that considered 'distribution' under the GPL?" I was rather surprised that he answered yes to that question. For obvious interpersonal reasons I didn't challenge him on that, but I was pretty shocked.
So I'm curious if there is actual case law to support this view? Or is this view possibly due to an abundance of caution and a lack of case law? Lawsuits are expensive, one can understand not wanting to be the 'test' case.
It sure seems crazy to me (not a lawyer) that one could be obligated to release source code for an internal application that utilized GPL software one worked hard to protect and hide it from the world when someone (possibly someone with capability to access but specific contractual obligation not to remove the software [or other sensitive data] such as technical administrators at a cloud service provider) accesses your server and illegally copies it.
One parallel I've thought of is that the fact that it's illegal for someone to copy music off a file server doesn't protect someone who puts the music on an unprotected file server. However, that seems different from forced entry to a building, hacking into a server or direct contravention of an explicit agreement between parties.
I'm not really interested in "opinions" as "answers" here unless you are a professional lawyer in this area or otherwise have real world experience on the matter. I'm full of opinions, what I need is evidence to affirm or contradict my opinions. Therefore I'm more interested in actual precedents or cases where courts have ruled for or against the idea that stolen software (or other property) has been distributed. FWIW, I'm not about to take this back and fight with the lawyer, since that would be non-productive, It's his job and his call, end of story. I am interested in this for my own knowledge going forward.
I did see a question here about copyright that implied that "make available" was a critical concept but it's not clear that that applies here.