"Boing Boing points us to a paper from John Tehranian, called Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap (pdf), which attempts to show how far out of whack copyright laws are, with the simple tale of a hypothetical law professor (coincidentally named John, of course) going about a normal day, tallying up every big of copyright infringement he engages in. Replying to an email with quoted text? Infringement! Reply to 20 emails? You're looking at $3 million in statutory damages. Doodle a sketch of a building? Unauthorized derivative work. Read a poem outloud? Unauthorized performance. Forward a photograph that a friend took? Infringement! Take a short film of a birthday dinner with some friends and catch some artwork on the wall in the background? Infringement!
"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 (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). 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, he would be indisputably 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. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer—a veritable grand larcenist—or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years."While the paper calls this "infringement nation," it clearly goes beyond our nation. We are living in the "infringement age," where it's impossible not to infringe on copyrights every single day -- yet many people still don't understand why it makes sense to change copyright laws to make them more reasonable."