A Nation of Infringers?

John Tehranian, a law professor at the University of Utah, has an article coming out in the Utah Law Review in which he concludes that the dichotomy between copyright law and social norms "is so profound that on any given day even the most law-abiding American engages in thousands of actions that likely constitute copyright infringement."

How substantial is this infringement, you ask? Well, Tehranian calculates that the average American is liable for $12.45 million in copyright damages each day.

These calculations reveal just how expansive and pervasive copyright has become. As a result, the gap between what copyright law allows and what social norms permit is so great that "we are, technically speaking, a nation of infringers."

Tehranian's illustration of the problem highlights the ludicrousness of the current statutory damages framework under copyright law, the importance of fair use as a defense to infringement, and the pressing need for copyright reform.

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica comments on Tehranian's article and asks the right (rhetorical) questions:

What better way could there be to create a nation of constant lawbreakers than to instill in that nation a contempt for its own laws? And what better way to instill contempt than to hand out rights so broad that most Americans simply find them absurd?


Subject Area: 


fringe infringements

I'm not a lawyer, but I can follow footnotes and read through Title 17. It's clear that Tehranian's numbers are a farse because he assumed away Fair Use. It's just not very realistic. Many of the possible infringements he listed were not back by actual cases.