THEFT is a recursive acronym that stands for “Tease, Harassment, Extortion, Fraud and Theft”. It is a collective term used for licenses that use any, a combination of, or all the listed tactics to get you to pay or pay more for software.
Software that pretends to be free relies on the consumer being the product; either through monetization of information gathered from and about the user, or appealing to the consumer’s inevitable desire to own more features and content. This sort of title teases a potential buyer with a lot of features, but often remains vague about which features are included in the free or lower-priced version
If the teasing alone does not work, there is always harassment for the software publisher to fall back on, such as advertisement, pop-ups, offers, spamming, etc…
Extortion comes into play through locking your data into the application, restricting import and export capabilities, and using proprietary formats and protocols. Selling you a “perpetual” license when in reality you stop receiving updates after a year unless you buy another “perpetual” license (even if at a discounted rate) is a form of extortion.
Fraud is misrepresentation of the value and length of your license, your level of ownership of the title and the data produced by it. Calling something a perpetual license when it only gives you effective use of your software for a limited time is–for all intents and purposes–fraud. Similar examples are in-game credits and currency, if they are required to be purchased in order for a player to be able to accomplish tasks or advance in the game.
Theft is the summary of the practices covered by the THEFT License. Publishers making money through the described methods are essentially stealing from the consumer.
Closed source software by itself is not necessarily THEFT, and neither are all in-app-purchase titles. Clearly disclosed subscription services and store applications are not necessarily THEFT, either. The level of restrictiveness and disclosure by the publisher determine whether software is considered THEFT.
THEFT Licensing is not a victimless crime.