The Infringement Age: How Much Do You Infringe On A Daily Basis?

from the a-lot-more-than-you-might-think dept

Boing Boing points us to a paper from John Tehranian, called Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap (pdf), which attempts to show how far out of whack copyright laws are, with the simple tale of a hypothetical law professor (coincidentally named John, of course) going about a normal day, tallying up every big of copyright infringement he engages in. Replying to an email with quoted text? Infringement! Reply to 20 emails? You're looking at $3 million in statutory damages. Doodle a sketch of a building? Unauthorized derivative work. Read a poem outloud? Unauthorized performance. Forward a photograph that a friend took? Infringement! Take a short film of a birthday dinner with some friends and catch some artwork on the wall in the background? Infringement!
"By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer—a veritable grand larcenist—or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years."
While the paper calls this "infringement nation," it clearly goes beyond our nation. We are living in the "infringement age," where it's impossible not to infringe on copyrights every single day -- yet many people still don't understand why it makes sense to change copyright laws to make them more reasonable.

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  1. identicon
    Bigpicture, 20 Nov 2007 @ 8:54am

    Re: professors don't infringe

    It's about analogue versus digital. Digital screwed everything up in relation to the operation of copyright laws.

    It used to take over an hour to record a cassette, and sometimes I used to spent a whole Sunday afternoon recording a single cassette.

    And really in the end all I was doing was transferring to a different media, and selecting the actual songs that I wanted, and leaving off the ones that I did not want. (selecting and arranging) You see they never did successfully make LP players for vehicles.

    Now I can record a CD in less than 5 minutes, and that includes selecting the songs that I want, in the order that I want them. And unlike a cassette if I make a mistake or change my mind on the content, I just trash the CD and start over with a new CD, no big deal, but with a cassette starting over was a huge deal.

    I think that transferring from one media to another or selecting or arranging on the same media is still considered by copyright law to be "fair use". Making available or acquiring for no copyright fee by digital method is not. Digital made this possible.

    So here is the issue: In the present technological and social environment, the role of the recording companies becomes less and less relevant, (the actual value of recording and distribution of content services) the artists still need to be fairly compensated for their work, and present technological progress should not be unduly restrained. Or if so, this will be a recipe for the US to get passed by by others who impose no such restraints, and become a third world nation.

    For instance Google provides what could be considered public services, yet there is no charge to the public for those services, the revenue is generated by a different business model. AOL charge for similar services, which model is working the best??? (generates the most revenue) The music and writing industries need to explore some different models, because society is changing, both in technology and lifestyle.

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