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. icon
    Mike (profile), 2 Feb 2009 @ 10:08am

    Re: Copyright Fixes

    I can agree that copyright law is a mess and it might need to be fixed. And, the performance issue may be a bit muddled in the middle -- but it is relatively clear at the edges. This was an example of such clarity, that no clarification of the copyright act would possibly have changed this story. This is the "hall monitor" mentality run amok.

    It's not necessarily that it's confusion about the "Copyright Act." It's that thanks to actions over the last few years, the Copyright Industry has basically educated people on the idea that almost anything you think you should normally be able to do with content is potentially infringing.

    This is the end result of that educational plan.

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