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A new study analyzes the dramatic disparity between U.S. copyright law and the social norm

What does your picture hanging in your living room, singing a Beatles song to your friend, or showing off pictures from your latest museum trip have in common?  They are all copyright infringements, according the 1976 Copyright Act.

The 1976 Copyright Act set forth that all creative works gained copyright protection, without the need for registration.  This overly broad legal train wreck has only gotten more confusing with the entrance of modern digital technology.  If you post a picture of a concert are you infringing?  If you let your friend listen to your phone to hear part of a song at a concert are you infringing?

The answer to both questions according to the 1976 Copyright Act is yes; you are obviously infringing, as you paid no royalties to the creator of the creative work (the musician).

John Tehranian, a law professor at the University of Utah, estimates that in an average day, he totals as much as $12.45 million USD in liability.  He sees his case as the norm, not as an exception, which is the topic of his new research paper (PDF).  According to Tehranian, "We are, technically speaking, a nation of infringers."

Tehranian illustrates numerous everyday examples.  For example, copying the full text of an email for a response is technically a copyright violation against the writer.  Tattoos such as Tehranian's bold Captain Caveman emblem on his shoulder are a thorny issue, which seem to infringe on copyrights.  Furthermore, Tehranian states, if he were to take off his shirt at the University pool and go for a swim; his tattoo could be deemed a public performance, racking up even more copyright infringement charges.

Tehranian has calculated his year liability -- for everything from the birthday song, to his home decorations -- and has rung up his yearly liability bill and just about $4.5 billion USD.

Tehranian does not engage in p2p file sharing as some might wonder upon seeing that tidy sum.  Tehranian tries to illustrate that the poor legal language of U.S. copyright law makes nearly everyone in the country civil offenders in a sense.  He sees the "vast disparity between copyright law and copyright norms" as a mandate for copyright reform. 

Tehranian raises many valid points.  The key issue is whether there is a point to laws with no enforcement or arbitrary enforcement.  This is the current state of copyright law.  Big business advocates such as the RIAA, MPAA, and IFPI use the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for everything from taking down websites, press charges against site owners, deny publication education funding, and to sue people for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The artist Prince now is even trying to use them to take down YouTube, Ebay, and The Pirate Bay.

Meanwhile, people everyday commit hundreds to thousands of equivalent violations, entirely unknowingly.  The fact of the matter is that U.S. copyright law today remains a mess of ambiguity and shadows, but has allowed for tremendous legal campaigns against U.S. citizens.  Perhaps the U.S. needs to let citizens rewrite the copyright law via wiki, as New Zealand recently did for its new law enforcement guidelines.  Whatever its form, copyright reform, however seems far away, and until then -- according to Tehranian -- we are one nation united by infringement.



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This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By iFX on 11/20/2007 10:47:21 AM , Rating: 2
... every drive will break the law every time he or she drives. Whether is be speeding, crossing a solid white to change lanes, not signaling to early for a turn, signaling to late for a turn - or just not signaling at all.

The law is written in a such a way that it's impossible to follow.




RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 10:53:45 AM , Rating: 3
Driving laws are not impossible to follow. In fact, they are very easy. Make sure you automobile meets all the physical requirements set by the state to be considered legal to drive on the road. Next, READ & OBEY the driving laws. When you drive, go the speed limit. When you signal, and yes - be sure to use a signal, make sure you do so with enough distance before your turn. Dont tailgate, dont break check, dont cross a solid line to pass somoene.

Its not hard. Only someone who doesnt like the driving laws or is a complete idiot would argue that they CANNOT be followed. They CAN be, its just that you do not WANT to.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By iFX on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 11:04:19 AM , Rating: 2
Well, cops dont have tools on them to know that you signaled 49ft as opposed to 50ft. You are talking technicalities, when the point of the law is to signal far enough in advanced so that other motorists have time to see and react to that signal. They arent going to ticket you for 49ft, but they will if you dont put it on until you are already turning.

Also, there is a minimum speed on freeways for "normal traffic patterns" - which is designed to prevent accidents. Traffic jams are not considered "normal traffic patterns".

You need to read the rest of the driving laws before just picking and choosing certain phrases to argue with. because they are more detailed and just than what you are describing.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By iFX on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 11:48:52 AM , Rating: 1
im not the perfect driver at all, never claimed to be. I like to drive fast, im too lazy to use turn signals, i dont use two hands on the wheel, i tailgate, and often time i cut people off on the freeway swerving in and out of traffic. I never claimed to be a "traffic law" abiding citizen.

But it is possible that i could stop all that and obey the traffic laws? Absolutely. The traffic laws are laid out clearly at the BMV, local police station, online, or even the library. Go get a copy and read through if you are confused or questioning the laws.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By iFX on 11/20/07, Rating: -1
RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By Spuke on 11/20/2007 12:01:00 PM , Rating: 3
You have a valid point mdogs, but, like the man said above, if the law says 50 feet then it's 50 feet regardless. Any other distance is indeed illegal. Whether it's enforceable or not is a different story.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By rcc on 11/20/2007 12:15:03 PM , Rating: 2
So signal at 100', or after the preceeding turn, whichever is closest. You can easily comply with traffic laws, most people choose not to.

Just like you can comply with copyright law, but many people choose not to. For pretty much the same reasons, it's easy to do, and chances of getting caught are fairly low with basic precautions. Doesn't make it right.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By masher2 (blog) on 11/20/2007 12:24:44 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly. The law doesn't say "signal at exactly 50 feet", it says "signal at least 50 feet before". Traffic laws are not impossible to follow.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By sj420 on 11/20/2007 2:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't anyone ever hear the phrase:

"Rules were meant to be broken"

Consider that when the country was founded most of these ignoramous laws were not in existance and were NEVER considered. Now suddenly they are in the books (1976, big whoop, oh authority, yyyeeeaars of experience </sarcasm>) and everyone acts like they have to follow them to the books.

Well, Heres what good ol' George Washington Says:

"If America does not have an Armed Revolt every 30 years the will not maintain their Freedoms."

How many years has it been?
Lets get busy, the "People in power" are just "people"
with too much power. If you LET them control you they do.

Gather up your gear. Fear only exists if you believe in it.


By theapparition on 11/21/2007 7:17:39 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
You are talking technicalities..........

I think that's the point of the OP's analogy and relevant to the article (although a poor one, I understand what point he's trying to make). There's no point in trying to argue this. There are many laws on the books that are outdated/irrelevant now, and are in dire need of being updated or removed.

Let's see in South Carolina (just picked a random state):

No work may be done on Sunday.
An exception to the above law is that light bulbs may be sold.

Horses may not be kept in bathtubs.

It is illegal to give or receive oral sex in South Carolina.
(I'd like to see how they plan to enforce that!)

It is perfectly legal to beat your wife on the court house steps on Sundays.

Every adult male must bring a rifle to church on Sunday in order to ward off Indian attacks.


All of these are real laws on the books in South Carolina. Yet not enforced, and I'd like to see the man who beats up his spouse on the courthouse steps not get charged, reguardless of what the law says. You may be breaking the law, without even knowing it. That was the point of the original article, and arguing about driving laws is pointless.

Take a look at some in Ohio..... :-)

Women are prohibited from wearing patent leather shoes in public.

It is illegal to fish for whales on Sunday.

It is illegal to get a fish drunk.

The Ohio driver's education manual states that you must honk the horn whenever you pass another car.

Participating or conducting a duel is prohibited.

Breast feeding is not allowed in public.

It is illegal for more than five women to live in a house.

No one may be arrested on Sunday or on the Fourth of July.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By Lord 666 on 11/20/2007 11:02:25 AM , Rating: 1
You can't tell me you drive the speed limit on them farm roads in Ohio.

Speed limits are implemented assuming people are going to go above them thus creating a legal cash cow. In NJ, even though it says 65mph on the Garden State Parkway, it really means don't go faster than 80 or get a ticket. Same thing on the Turnpike (I-95).

I agree with you fundementally on how easy it is to drive and maintain the law, but it does not explain why there are still so many accidents.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 11:08:07 AM , Rating: 2
First off, I dont live on or near farm roads. I live downtown Columbus - a city of roughly 750,000 people.

Second, I dont drive the speed limit, ever - unless I spot a police officer.

I am not defending my driving, I am saying that its not difficult to obey traffic laws and therefore they are not impossible to follow.

But in case you dont know anything about Ohio traffic - and its obvious you dont - Ohio cops are one of the worst in the country for giving speeding tickets. In some areas, they will ticket you for going over 3mph over the speed limit. Many cities around here actually make the majority of their money off of speeding violations. State Troopers on the freeways will ticket you for anything about 4-5+ over the limit, and you have no way to get out of it.


By sj420 on 11/20/2007 2:18:43 PM , Rating: 4
Most of the victimless crimes are simply for revenue for the state.

Just trying to bring in some money so they pick on ordinary people that do minor things that don't actually do any harm to the world at all.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By RandallMoore on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 11:27:22 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
I assure you that every time you get on the road with a car, you commit several traffic violations.


Then please enlighten me as to which ones I am breaking everytime i get into my car.

quote:
The majority of traffic laws are set as guidelines. If you think this is a stupid comment, then do this for several weeks. Go 5 miles per hour over the speed limit everywhere that you go. If its 55, then go 60. If you get a speeding ticket, then i will personally pay it myself. Even though you are speeding, it isn't enough for a cop to care 99 % of the time. There are exceptions though. If you go 56 in a 55 they technically have the right to pull you over and cite you. But it is NOT very likely.


Exactly right, they do have a right to pull you over and ticket you - but no one is saying they are going to every time. You obviously do not get out much, or havent heard of cities out there that get almost all of their money from speeding violations and will ticket you for 1-2mph over the limit. Dont believe me? Go and look up a city in Cleveland called Lindale (http://www.speedtrap.org/speedtraps/ste.asp?state=... Its a very very small city in cleveland that only owns about 150yrds of freeway total. They ticket everyone going 1mph over, and thats how they fund almost the entire city.

You really need to get out more.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By RandallMoore on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By rcc on 11/20/2007 12:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We know what the common sense laws are, and everyone has access to do them.


"We" is too broad mdogs, most people do, some have no common sense.

Then there are the ones that argue that it's impossible to comply with the law because they feel that it empowers them to break it. They have no desire to try to fix it, because that would require effort, and would take away their excuses.

: )


By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 12:55:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
some have no common sense.


Good correction. It appears that we have a bunch of that type in this article - arguing that they just cannot stop when the sign says stop!


By EricMartello on 11/27/2007 12:34:06 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't make an issue out of whether traffic laws are difficult or easy to follow, but I think that there are a lot of superfluous traffic laws on the books that would require an 'questionable' effort to comply with. For example, on the matter of the speed limit...if it is posted as 35 MPH, yet the road is wide and straight, most people will travel around 50 MPH on that road because they can. If you decide to comply with the law, which is to drive at the posted 35 MPH limit, you are disrupting the flow of traffic (potentially a violation in itself).

Anyway, the original issue is the poorly worded Copyright act of 1976, and like the newer DMCA, it has many open-ended statements and leaves far too much to interpretation. Copyright and IP law needs a serious revision, and unfortunately, all revisions to date have been biased more toward corporate interests rather than to consumers.


By kextyn on 11/20/2007 11:56:01 AM , Rating: 3
Not everybody breaks the law everytime they drive their car. Many people have tire pressure monitoring systems which would let them know if their tires are low. Some vehicles can even air them up themselves so that would prevent that. Some vehicles also can tell you if any of your lights are out due to the change in resistance and whatnot in the wires. Not everybody checks the wipers but people do drive in the rain so they would obviously be checking them at that point. Not everybody rolls through stops, speeds, or doesn't use their signal early enough. And my parking brake wouldn't matter because I park on private property most of the time (and I drive a manual so it's always on when I park.)

This is a stupid argument. Not everyone breaks the law when they drive, but many do.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By masher2 (blog) on 11/20/2007 12:29:49 PM , Rating: 1
> "Are all four of your tires pressurized to the correct amount? I think not. You could technically get a ticket for that"

Err, no. I believe some states could fit a 'dangerously incorrect' tire pressure into a safety code violation, but the idea you're breaking the law if your tire is set to 45 rather than 50 psi is just plain wrong.

> "Do you check for debris and normal function of your car every time before you get behind the wheel?"

There is no law to require you to do this in any state I know of.

> "When you get to a stop sign do your tires always...come to a complete stop? If not, then you just broke the law..."

Of course. That's why the sign says "stop", not "slow down a bit".


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By gradoman on 11/20/2007 6:04:43 PM , Rating: 2
Lol...the people of NYC need to have a f*cking dictionary slammed on their heads to help them understand the word Stop and a Powerpoint presentation to help recognize a Stop Sign.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 6:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
Ive heard that many people actually think that 8 sided signs with the word "STOP" is optional - when the sign has white boarders.

lol - jk.


By Lord 666 on 11/20/2007 6:38:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yellow speed limit signs are just a suggestion. The white ones mean an actual speed limit.


By Lord 666 on 11/20/2007 6:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
Tiene que ser bilingüe señor


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By RandallMoore on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
By Keeir on 11/21/2007 12:14:47 AM , Rating: 3
I believe Masher was referring to the "debris" part of your statement in that minor cosmetic damage is not prohibited by law in any state.

As for the Tail Light Issue. Yes you should check out your rear mirrors at the least to assure that a light is on. Checking all the major functions IS a part of driving safely. Thankfully I have an Auto that does the majority of this checking for me, but I definitely still check functions such as parking brake, mirrors, etc before I drive.

The point is that driving laws ARE able to be followed, even if its such a pain very few do, but Copyright law as it is currently written is essentially unfollowable in the course of normal activity... because your almost sure to be involved in another person's violation each and every day.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By iFX on 11/20/07, Rating: 0
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 11:58:16 AM , Rating: 2
LOL i never said i was an uber driver - in fact, read my posts and youll see that i dont follow all the laws at all

But what my main point is - that you are trying to deter from - is that the laws are easy to follow, you just dont WANT TO.

You just cited a bunch of the laws that you knowingly break. Is it possible for you to follow them? Yes! You just dont want to.


By rcc on 11/20/2007 12:32:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The highway patrol are mainly looking for the ones going 65 in a 55 and wreckless driving.


That absolutely depends on where you are. In most of Ca, on the freeway you are safe up to 10 mph over the posted limit.

And, by the way, all law enforcement encourages wreckless driving. They do, however, object to reckless driving, mostly because it promotes wrecks.

Unfortunately, law enforcement efforts are subject to local preference, attititude, and funding. The CHP recognizes that it doesn't have the resources to ticket everyone that goes a few MPH over the limit, they do however go after those gross offenders that are more likely to cause accidents.


By AMDfreak on 11/21/2007 11:54:09 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The highway patrol are mainly looking for the ones going 65 in a 55 and wreckless driving.


I would think that wreckless driving is a good thing. Reckless driving, on the other hand, not so good. =P


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By Oregonian2 on 11/20/2007 2:30:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When you drive, go the speed limit.


No can do. May be speeding if one does that. Need to drive below the speed limit by the maximum error tolerance of one's speedometer. And even then, that speedometer will need to go through periodic calibration to have that tolerance certified. Not that my automobile's manual gives a tolerance, so what should one do? Would driving 10% under the limit provide enough margin to really be not over the limit any whatsoever?

P.S. - Perhaps the tolerance of the police speed radar needs to be accommodated too by slowing even further down. Gets even more fun going downhill.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 2:44:28 PM , Rating: 1
Do people on here just complain for the sake of complaining? You hate people that drive SUV's either because you cannot afford them, or they are too big, or you dont see a purpose for them, etc. Then you hate people who use more gasoline than you if they drive an SUV - but it doesnt matter if they only drive 5 miles a day and you drive 50...becuase they are not as efficient. Now you hate it because you are expected to follow traffic laws for everyone's safety?

Jesus. You people need to grow up....idiots.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By Oregonian2 on 11/20/2007 2:58:15 PM , Rating: 2
FYI - I was being sarcastic.


By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 3:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
I know, i wasnt talking about you (i could tell your sarcasm), but read some of these peoples posts. Its ridiculous.....flaming the govt because they dont want to come to a complete stop when the sign clearly says "STOP".

People never seem to surprise me now a days.


RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By BladeVenom on 11/20/2007 3:33:12 PM , Rating: 2
Do you know all the federal, state, county, and city laws?
quote:
Any motorist driving along a country road at night must stop every mile and send up a rocket signal, wait 10 minutes for the road to be cleared of livestock, and continue. -Pennsylvania Law


By rcc on 11/20/2007 6:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, we all watched Walking Talk part one and we know about all the obsolete laws still on the books. It makes for some very entertaining reading.

Ultimately irrelavent though


By iFX on 11/20/2007 10:54:29 AM , Rating: 2
Wow - I just read that post again... its early and I haven't had my coffee yet. I think you can get the idea though. =)


By qwertyz on 11/20/2007 11:11:21 AM , Rating: 1
First of all who says that's copyright infringement ? a stupid law, C'MON


By Screwballl on 11/20/2007 12:20:03 PM , Rating: 2
exactly to the OP
The laws in the US are so vague or so "grey" that anyone can be in violation of any law for almost anything they do. This was not the intent but is the outcome. It may be the very basis for the laws as set by our forefathers to be this way as they know man is prone to error but allows for some leeway so that not every intersection is monitored for blinkers, not every road monitored for crossing solid lines, and not have to monitor cell phones for having a friend hear part of a concert over the phone.
If they want to lock everything down, they need direct and clear language and direct and clear monitoring. It is possible but not likely., especially with the amount of money and technology investment needed to install monitors in cars and roads (especially rural roads) and everything else.
The laws as currently written only go after to worst infringers and those that are caught. Yes a LOT of work is needed in many areas but people aren't scared to do something illegal anymore due to the chance of getting caught is slim to none. Only the dumbest ones with their computer opened up to the world getting nailed by RIAA or driving 90mph in a 25mph school zone by a cop will get caught.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov














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