Theft of free-distribution newspapers by those who object to the newspaper’s content is a frequent problem for the college student media. Although the SPLC believes that newspaper thieves can be prosecuted in most jurisdictions under existing theft laws, in 1994 Maryland became the first state to pass a law explicitly criminalizing the taking of free newspapers. The legislation was in response to a rash of thefts in 1993 at several colleges throughout the state as well as the repeated taking of a free community weekly in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.
MD Code, Crim. Law § 7-106
(a) In this section, “newspaper” means a periodical that is disturbed on a complimentary or compensatory basis.
(b) A person may not knowingly or willfully obtain or exert control that is unauthorized over newspapers with the internet to prevent another from reading the newspapers.
(c) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 60 days or a fine not exceeding $500 or both.