Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap
15 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2007 Last revised: 5 May 2015
Date Written: 2007
The 1976 Copyright Act inextricably mediates our relationship with cyberspace and new media. Yet three decades have passed since the Act went into effect, and without dispute, tremendous economic, technological, and social changes have occurred in that time. Although these changes do necessarily dictate wholesale revision of the law, we have certainly reached an appropriate point to evaluate the efficacy of the extant Act and think holistically about the issue of reform.
By tracing the liability that a hypothetical law professor named "John" unwittingly incurs for his quotidian activities over the course of a single day, Infringement Nation highlights three key trends. First, copyright law is increasingly relevant to the daily life of the average American. Second, this growing pertinence has precipitated a heightened public consciousness over copyright issues. Finally, these two facts have magnified the vast disparity between copyright law and copyright norms. We are, in short, a nation of copyright infringers. In the twenty-first century, the average American violates copyright law with spectacular gusto on a daily basis without batting an eyelid. As surveillance technology grows more sophisticated, thereby allowing acts of infringement increasingly to come under the detection and enforcement power of copyright holders, we will be forced to confront the law/norm gap. In response, we have already begun to reexamine our norms. It is also incumbent upon us to reexamine the vitality of our copyright regime - a regime that presently threatens to make criminals of us all.
Keywords: copyright, reform, 1976 Copyright Act, norms, technology, surveillance, cyberspace, Internet, infringement, intellectual property
JEL Classification: O34, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation