If someone is listing their work as free to download and use then I don't see it as theft.
That's the point. "Use" has more than one meaning and needs to be defined.
Free to download and use PERSONALLY does not necessarily also include....re-distribute to others, ie. by rehosting or reuploading elsewhere. Doing so then prevents the author from controlling its distribution and thus is typically a breach of copyright.
Simple example of how it 'can' go wrong...
Devout Christian uploads 'something' for 'personal use'....and that user then re-uploads it to a porn site [or worse].
How does the innocent owner then counter his humiliation and reputation being associated/destroyed by the actions of a third party?
Property Rights are there for a very good reason...