As I continue my perusal of the SABIP report on ‘Digital Consumers in the Online Age’ I’m finding yet more things that get my goat. The target of this particular moment’s focus is one of their ‘Key Findings’ titled “It has never, ever been easier to break the law” on page 12.
When I saw this I thought ‘Yes! Something in this report that I agree with’, however this joy was short lived. The report’s take on this statement is that it is relatively easy to get into file-sharing, with the media constantly telling us how to find the sites, Google providing easy information when searching for ‘free music’ (that evil Google) and peer-pressure in social networks… apparently Pirate Bay is the new crafty cigarette.
Yet when I saw this initial statement my mind turned to ‘Infringement Nation’ by John Tehranian. This wonderful article from The University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law documents a day in the life of the average Law Professor and how his daily practice infringes copyright left right and centre.
By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, barring last minute salvation from the notoriously ambiguous fair use defense, he would be liable for a mind-boggling$4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file-sharing.
If we tallied up the acts of copyright infringement that occurred outside of P2P systems I’m sure they would be much more substantial. I agree that it has never been easier to break the law, but perhaps that is because of the law, not because of the individual.