Rather Than Mocking Confusion Over Copyright Law, IP Lawyers Should Look At Fixing It

from the 3.4-people-out-of-4-think-so dept

Over the past few years, around Superbowl time, there have been various articles about the NFL threatening groups (often churches) for potentially violating copyright law by having a "public performance" of the Superbowl on a TV greater than 55" inches. This year, we didn't see much of that, but there was an odd article about University of Tampa students being told that they couldn't have more than 3.4 people watching the Superbowl in their dorms, or it risked being a public performance and violation of copyright law. This, of course, makes very little sense (not the least of which is the obvious question of how you have .4 of a person.

Not surprisingly, this has the IP lawyers out there mocking folks for being totally clueless on copyright law. Yes, yes, it's easy to mock -- especially when the whole 3.4 person issue seems to have been basically made up from nowhere. However, I'd argue that the problem is less with the University of Tampa than it is with what copyright law has become these days.

We hear so many stories of bizarre interpretations of copyright law, that it clearly seems perfectly reasonable to many, many people that copyright law might actually say that about 3.4 people representing a public performance. When churches are getting threatening letters and mechanics are being sued for playing music to loudly in the garage, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility. The problem is not with some clueless folks at the University of Tampa as it is with (a) our current copyright laws that have been patched and duct taped together over and over again that no non-lawyer can truly understand them, let alone abide by them and (b) other recent rulings on copyright law that have made it clear to people that the law is used to stop perfectly normal activities.

So, the IP lawyers can have fun mocking, but I'd suggest their time might be better spent working to fix copyright law so that people wouldn't even think this made sense.
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Filed Under: copyright, lawyers, public performance, superbowl
Companies: university of tampa


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  1. identicon
    SuperSparky, 2 Feb 2009 @ 9:34am

    Sometimes less is more

    Once upon a time the copyright and patent laws were simple.

    I have no objection to perpetual trademarks, like Mickey and such, as long as the entity is valid and not a "holding company", but perpetual copyright is stupid and doesn't benefit society as the original copyright laws were written to do.

    It was the entertainment industry that got them changed to what they are now, and the software industry just added a few cherries to the whipped cream the entertainment industry created.

    I agree, there needs to be a reasonable length of time. Fifteen years ought to be plenty, in my opinion.

    Limiting copyright will actually encourage new development in all industries, as it prevents sitting on one-time successes.

    As to Disney, the characters can be trademarked, but the movies need to be set free. Just keep making good movies and the profits will continue to come in.

    I am a firm believer in the capitalist system. I loath a monopolistic or socialist system. Limited copyright would actually benefit a capitalist system by encouraging constant innovation and competition. No copyright would have a negative affect of not having an incentive to develop or innovate. Too much copyright actually restricts innovation.

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