There was recently a post on Techdirt about how even those who fight for stricter copyright laws end up accidentally infringing copyrights themselves.

The reason it’s so incredibly easy to infringe copyright law has to do with how out of control copyright laws have become.

As copyright was originally enacted, it was next to impossible to accidentally infringe. In the good old days in order to infringe on a copyright you had to physically publish a song or a book without permission by printing it onto paper via a printing press. There was no other way to copy or infringe on a song or a book and there was no such thing as a performance right protected by copyright.

Nowadays we infringe copyrights numerous times throughout the day without even thinking about it. Watching an unauthorized SNL clip on YouTube. Playing the radio in the background at work where customers can hear. Loaning a copy of your Finding Nemo DVD to play at your kids’ daycare. Downloading clip art to use in a personal scrapbook. Scanning your own wedding photos. Forwarding a funny photograph to a friend. Loaning a co-worker some software. Etc., etc., etc…

Copyright laws are so utterly pervasive in our lives that we simply cannot reasonably function without at least some innocent infringement. I personally think it’d be easier to avoid jaywalking and speeding than it would be to avoid infringing. So my question to you guys and gals, how long do you think you could last without infringing a copyright?

How long could you last without infringing a copyright?

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  1. Toxic Asshead says:

    Yup, you want to play a radio station or commercial CD in your phone systems music-on-hold you better pay ASCAP. It’s not a flat fee either. Your fee is based on the number of trunks (potential audience) in the phone system.

  2. amodedoma says:

    Actually, it’s been a loooong time since I’ve bought a book, album, or video. In my case it’s out of pure frustration that I download ‘piracy’. As soon as I can go to a server and pay a reasonable price for a good product without DRM, that will stop. I’m sick and tired of downloading poorly captured and compressed medios. Then there’s the issue of finding something rare. Took me months to find a copy of Gunhed, or my favorite 3 stooges short(‘Men in Black’). Add to that the crap that’s coming out of hollywood lately, I don’t think I could take another version, remake, or comic based flick. Hopefully they’ll get over this stupidity quick, I gotta a strong desire to collect Gilligan’s Island and I’m sure it’ll take months just to download a handfull of episodes.

  3. Nimby says:

    SN: Why is it illegal for me to scan my own photos? Unless you mean because the wedding photog holds the copyright. Personally, at my last, and pitifully doomed, wedding, I demanded the photographer assign copyrights to me. He didn’t want to and said he would have to charge much more so I said fine and we would go with another company. He changed his tune and I hold the copyrights though he was allowed to sell photos to guests. Actually, my ex-wife and I hold the copyrights. I don’t think that was ever mentioned in the paperwork. Wow! How about that? I didn’t walk away with nothing after all!

  4. Grae says:

    Nimby: “SN: Why is it illegal for me to scan my own photos? Unless you mean because the wedding photog holds the copyright.”

    It’s infringement because the copyright on photos taken by a professional photographer are assigned by default to that photographer.

    If you want to own the copyright on your professionally photographed and print wedding photos (or any photos you hired a pro to take and print) then you need to have the photographer assign them to you*.

    *IANAL, so I don’t know the exact process for doing this.

  5. steelcobra says:

    Hee, in Iraq my section runs a local CATV system. We play DVDs on one of the channels. Suck on that MPAA, cause you will lose if you try to fight the government.

  6. brm says:


    I could be wrong.

    If distribution rights are so clear, why does the RIAA insist on settling out of court?

  7. Breetai says:

    Is there a donation site for the Pirate Bay? I pretty much hate the RIAA that much.

  8. Mr. Fusion says:

    #20, SN,

    “{Lending / borrowing a DVD or music CD or buying a used one is NOT infringement.”

    Lending isn’t, but playing it at a daycare would constitute a public performance. Heck, that warning in on every DVD I’ve ever seen.

    And who said playing it in a Day Care wasn’t infringement?

    “Having a local radio station playing in a customer area is perfectly legal.”

    It would be legal if you have a license through ASCAP, if not, you’re infringing.

    Wrong. What comes over the airwaves is fair use, even in the presence of customers, UNLESS you try to profit from it by something along the lines of charging admission to a Super Bowl Party.

    There is no difference between playing music via a CD or on the radio under copyright. Either way it’s a public performance.

    Wrong again. The broadcaster has paid for the license to broadcast the music. For a CD, it only becomes a public performance if you charge people for the privilege. I could have 2 or 200 guests, if they do not pay for attending my party it is not a public performance.

    If I murder someone in self defense, I still murdered someone,

    Oh come on !!! A totally irrelevant analogy. We are discussion civil law and you think a heinous criminal case can be comparable.

    I’m a lawyer and my concentration was on IP. When you go to law school and can argue intelligently and knowingly about the law, I’d love to debate you. Until then I’ll leave you to your mindless rants and mere opinions.

    Instead you try to bullshit your way through the discussion. Sorry SN, but I ain’t buying it. You not only didn’t produce any case law to back up your arguments and refute mine, you haven’t bothered to check out ASCAP web site to find out when and where a license is needed. (hint, they don’t agree with you)

  9. amma35 says:

    I feel like it’s really hard to figure out when you’re using something copyrighted illegally and when you’re not. There are so many artists out there that are willing to share their works with others for use. The government copyright site is really confusing to search and it would be good if there were some sites where one could easily search to see if a song/pic/whatever is copyrighted. I did find – seems like a start…

  10. Glenn E. says:

    The current music copyright was extended back to all recordings made as old as 1926, retroactively. And allowed corporate entities to renew previously expire copyrights on old music. Or apply for a copyright to music no one had previously owned. Many recordings that had not been accessible, or recoverable, until the Library of Congress’ archives made it possible (with taxpayers’ money!).

    If anyone’s a thief, it’s the recording industry for stealing what’s become part of our culture. And turning it back into a commodity, to be profited from once more. Apparently, they’re not making enough money for the all the new music created by their current crop of “musicians”. They have to go back after stuff scratched out just after Edison wax cylinders bit the dust. The same sleazy trick was applied to old movies, that had fallen into the “public domain” category. Check the site, and you’ll see how they’ve had a field day, renewing copyrights for old movies, after Congress rolled over for them.

    Which of course, retroactively means that any other media creations that used parts of what was once deemed public domain material, became violators of the renewed copyrights. So yeah, it’s become nearly impossible NOT to violate copyrights, when they keep changing the rules, and backdating them to before you were even born!!

    Why don’t they just copyright all human languages, and sell the rights off to the highest bidders, and then claim everything ever made with those words is in violation?

  11. Mr Diesel says:

    Sorry SN but I have to agree with Mr Fusion on this thread.

    Put up some case law proving your point.

  12. taabitha says:

    SN wrote: Fair use is a defense.

    Wrong – fair use is a *right*. Copyright does not mean that all rights to the material belong to the creator – others have rights to use the material in certain ways, and in doing so they are not violating the copyright of the creator.