Thursday, May 24, 2007

You don't tug on Superman's Cape

Today Coca Cola opens what has been described as the "first corporate museum", called The World of Coca Cola. It is perhaps with that sense of gravitas that can only come from a museum with significant cultural artifacts that Judge Owen Foster sentenced a secretary at Coca Cola to eight years in prison for attempting to sell Coke’s secret formula. Going beyond the guidelines for such an offence and indeed significantly over the 63 -78 month range suggested by the prosecutor, Judge Foster stated: "This is the kind of offence that cannot be tolerated in our society."

Compare this to sentences handed out in cases of other important cultural artifacts:
  • Art Collector Stephane Breitweiser, who had stolen 238 masterpieces from various European museums, was sentenced to 26 months.
  • A man convicted of inflating bids in hundreds of internet art auctions, including the sale of a phony Richard Diebenkorn painting on Ebay, for a net profit of $450,000 ,was sentenced 46 months in prison.
  • Confessed map thief Edward Forbes Smiley III, who had admitted stealing 98 rare maps from the New York and Boston Public Libraries, libraries at Yale and Harvard, the Newberry Library in Chicago and the British Library in London, was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Forbes Smiley was described as "thief who assaulted history, damaged institutions in myriad ways, violated public and professional trust, and drastically set back scholarship." In passing sentence Judge Arterton "said she ‘felt the awe’ of ‘maps of such antiquity, much older than America, reflecting the timeline of knowledge."
  • A sophisticated group of five looters based in Las Vegas pilfered some 11,000 native artifacts - mainly prehistoric scrapers, grinders, and arrow shafts - from federal land in four states. Tim Canaday, an archaeologist with the federal Bureau of Land Management stated "In 25 years as an archaeologist, I'd rarely seen items of that quality," The ringleader, Bobbie Wilkie, pleaded guilty to causing more than $500,000 in damage to federal land and was sentenced to 37 months in jail.

The Coca Cola secretary attempted to sell the recipe to Pepsi which "warned Coca-Cola that it had received a letter in May 2006 offering Coca-Cola trade secrets to the "highest bidder" One presumes that Pepsi didn’t take it because they didn’t need it. If sophisticated technology that is capable of mapping the human genome, wasn’t able to determine the ingredients in coke . . . well that would be something to be in awe of. Perhaps worthy of a novel and film on attempts to crack "The Coke Code".

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