Print 70 comment(s) - last by EricMartello.. on Nov 27 at 12:34 AM

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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By mdogs444 on 11/20/2007 11:55:28 AM , Rating: 0
You havent proved me wrong at all.

I never claimed that I dont break any driving laws. What I originally claimed was that they are not difficult to follow.

Is it possible for you to check yoru tires, signals, etc before you drive? Yes. IS it a good idea for you to do that? Absolutely.

Does everyone know that the word STOP means STOP? yes. If you are still moving, didnt you stop? No.

Like i said in the beginning - the laws are not impossible to follow...its just that we dont want to becuase we find many of them unneccessary - until something happens. We get into an accident because someone elses turn signal was out. Then we argue that they should have checked that!

What my entire point is that the laws are easy to follow, we are just too impatient to do so. We know what the common sense laws are, and everyone has access to do them. If you get a ticket for something, chances are you broke the law because you were too lazy or didnt feel like following it.

RE: This is sort of similar to DOT laws...
By rcc on 11/20/2007 12:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
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
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.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki