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As copyright was originally enacted, it was next to impossible to accidentally infringe.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. OvenMaster says:

    None of the above: < one day

  2. bobsyeruncle says:

    @SN – Apparently you can’t last the length of a single post — as indicated by your blatant plagiarism of the techdirt comment from ima fish

  3. SN says:

    bobsyeruncle wrote: “Apparently you can’t last the length of a single post — as indicated by your blatant plagiarism of the techdirt comment from ima fish

    To paraphrase Bruce Wayne: “I’m Ima Fish!” Mmmm… it just doesn’t have the same impact, does it?

  4. Hugh Ripper says:

    Is thinkin’ about stuff a violation of copyright yet?

  5. soundwash says:

    you need to add a negative infinity entry, or it’s equivalent. (if logically possible)

    i’d wager a bet that anyone who has ever owned (or received) any kind of copyrighted material has infringed at least once. -and if they own or have ever used any of kind of recording or copying equipment, Bzzzt.

    so…lets save a ton of time and legal fees and just throw everyone in jail now.

    -better still just add a “copyright infringement garnish tax” of 5¢ to all purchases of copyrighted material
    (and/or anyone who does not live with or
    use electricity and uses fiat money.)

    this way we can put the whole issue to bed once and for all and stop wasting time with this crap. -it would have the added bonus a depriving the copyright trolls/lawyers who are the ultimately the main drivers of this, any further fees on the matter.

    -you could even sell it to the green nazis.
    just imagine how much energy would be saved.

    oi vay.

    -s

  6. MikeN says:

    And of course your solution is to eliminate copyrights and let anyone copy anything.

  7. Hmeyers says:

    Between copyright and patents and EULAs and license agreements, everything in this world is illegal.

    But you do it anyway.

    Companies get sued all the time and individuals get sued all the time. Some did it intentionally, most probably didn’t.

    Allocate for lawyers and possible legal expenses and move on.

  8. Beltane says:

    Hell I’m gonna copy this to my blog and take credit for it!

  9. SN says:

    MikeN wrote: “And of course your solution is to eliminate copyrights and let anyone copy anything.

    Do you really think it’s a zero sum game? That the only solutions are to keep exactly what we have or eliminate all copyright law? Do you have any imagination at all besides those two polar opposites?

    But let’s assume there’s not a happy medium, and that there is only your two options. So what should we do….

    Put everyone in jail because we infringe day after day. (You technically infringed twice by downloading to your browser’s cache the two pictures I’ve included in the post without the permission of the copyright holders. Will they sue you? Nope, but technically under the law you infringed.)

    Or eliminate copyright.

    What solution would you pick? (I’d rather pick something in the middle, of course, but your lack of an imagination apparently cannot handle that concept.)

  10. ArianeB says:

    An interesting catch 22:

    The only people who might avoid innocently infringing on copyright would be talented creative people capable of creating everything they need themselves.

    BUT

    Talented creative people get that way by studying their craft and recreating what others have done, violating copyrights all along the way.

  11. Ah_Yea says:

    I noticed the vote box doesn’t have a “Multiple times a day” button.

    It should.

  12. ECA says:

    you’re poll dont cover 3 seconds..

  13. jccalhoun says:

    Why would you want to go without infringing on copyright? I do it whenever possible. Copyright laws as they currently exist in the USA are insane. As Negativland says, “Coyright infringement is your best entertainment value.”

  14. brm says:

    I don’t publish, so I never infringe.

    Downloading music is *not* infringing.

  15. soundwash says:

    as an afterthought, i wonder if in part,
    the explosion of copyright enforcement is
    an attempt to keep the general populous from learning how to educate itself, as well as dumbed down and malleable.

    i’d say 95% of my online “infringement” comes from watching documentaries and reading
    science, math and technical related studies, papers and journals etc.

    the net (and BBS’s prior) have exposed and enlightened me to far more information and ways to learn than any then any school or college could ever hope (or want) to. -much of of, copyrighted.

    -Knowledge is power, after all.

    -anyway, just a thought.

    -s

  16. chuck says:

    In the top-right corner of this blog are the copyrighted logos of VISA, M/C and AMEX, etc.

    Since Dvorak.org is using those products to handle financial transactions, they probably have a license to use the images.

    But those images have now been downloaded into the cache folder of the hard drive’s of everyone who is reading this page. Plus they’ve been copied a few million times by Google.

    This shows just how ridiculous the copyright laws have got. Okay, the guys who are illegally printing books, duplicating CDs, DVDs (in mass quantities), etc are breaking the law. It’s simple theft.

    But borrowing a book (or buying a used book), playing a radio (or ipod) in the office, etc – no one is being deprived of their income.

  17. GRtak says:

    You need a couple more choices:

    An hour

    Can’t freaking do it

  18. Mr. Fusion says:

    A few people need to become educated.

    Clicking on a link and having a copyrighted picture stored in your HD cache is NOT an infringement. For any act to require enforcement requires purpose and intent. An accidental retention of some thumbnails is a long way from that. In short, inadvertent exposure to Copyrighted material is not infringing. Can’t be, never was, never will. Possession or purchase of a book (or other product) with unlicensed material is the publisher’s problem, not yours.

    Lending / borrowing a DVD or music CD or buying a used one is NOT infringement. Even making a back-up copy is generally legal as long as the back-up is retained and lent out. Sharing your legally owned copy of a copyrighted work is perfectly legal as long as you do not profit from it, such as charge others for the pleasure.

    Having a local radio station playing in a customer area is perfectly legal. The vendor has no control over the content and second that content is already being paid for by the advertisements that are also being broadcast.

    If you play privately owned CDs in the customer area that may be different, but I can’t see it. ASCAP considers it wrong to play recorded music while it is legal to play broadcast music. But they will sell you a license to play recorded music.

    Copying passages of printed materials has long been considered fair use. BUT, that almost always includes attributing the passage to the original author and the copied part is only an excerpt, not the entire, or even most, of the piece.

    So yes Steve, it is quite possible to go for a long time without violating a copyrighted license.

  19. SN says:

    brm wrote: “I don’t publish, so I never infringe. Downloading music is *not* infringing.

    That’s about as wrong as a mini-skirt and heels on a hairy fat guy.

  20. SN says:

    18. Mr. Fusion wrote: “Clicking on a link and having a copyrighted picture stored in your HD cache is NOT an infringement. For any act to require enforcement requires purpose and intent.

    Exactly what copyright statute requires “purpose and intent.” I won’t hold my breath waiting for the cite.

    {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.

    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. Heck, in the UK someone was threatened with a lawsuit for playing music for his horses! There is no difference between playing music via a CD or on the radio under copyright. Either way it’s a public performance.

    Copying passages of printed materials has long been considered fair use.

    Fair use is a defense. Think of it this way. If I murder someone in self defense, I still murdered someone, but the law excuses it because of self defense. Plus you’d have to go through the four factors of § 107, right?

    So yes Steve, it is quite possible to go for a long time without violating a copyrighted license.

    I never said it was impossible. Staying in your bed for the rest of your life could do it.

    I know you’re an ignorant flamebait, but you have no idea what you are talking about. 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.

    I know you’ll say that I’m appealing to authority somehow, but in my years since law school I’ve learned one thing: Discussing IP with a novice is about as fruitful as discussing calculus with a monkey.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. brm says:

    #19:

    I could be wrong.

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

  27. Breetai says:

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

  28. 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)

  29. 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 http://www.copyrightsearch.org – seems like a start…

  30. Mr Diesel says:

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

    Put up some case law proving your point.


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