Monday, November 19, 2007

Why We Are All Criminals: The Case for Copyright Reform...

The stereotype the media industry perpetuates is the lone figure sitting in his dorm room downloading thousands of copyrighted songs illegally on peer-to-peer networks, driving the artists into bankruptcy. They frame the issue in these overly simplified terms - you either follow the law by purchasing content, or you commit piracy and should be fined or even jailed.

However, as this Boing Boing article highlights, according to current copyright laws, every single one of us infringes on copyrights every day, unintentionally and without even realizing it. Anytime you forward an email, share photos, or chat with friends online, you are most likely committing copyright infringement and can be sued for millions of dollars because in order to view such materials, your computer needs to make a digital copy on the hard drive before anything can be displayed. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 was supposed to address these issues, but the technology has evolved to a point where many of our daily internet activities are no longer covered.

So despite the media industry's attempts to demonize proponents of copyright reform as criminals, the fact is that there is a tremendous disparity between the law and behavioral norms. Calling for copyright reform is not the same as calling for the legalization of piracy. Far from it. The problem is that according to existing copyright law we are all pirates, and the law needs to be changed in order to retain any meaning whatsoever.


At 1:07 PM, Blogger Fitz said...

I dont get it, Rob. How am I breaking copyright law by saving a photo to my hard drive? Or by chatting on an IM program?


At 3:48 PM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Fitz, to answer your question...

Whenever you visit a website with an image on it, your computer actually makes a copy of that image on your hard drive in order to display it. Check your "Temporary Internet Files" folder and see how much stuff is there. Most of these files are technically the intellectual property of someone else, which means that unless you contacted them and asked for permission to make copies of their materials before you visited their website, you are infringing on their copyrights.

Obviously, this doesn't make any sense in today's world, which is why people argue for reforming copyright law. The music and movie industries try to portray these "reformers" with the stereotype of criminal pirates who illegally download music on P2P networks, but the truth is far more complicated.

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Case in point:


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