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copyrightIn today’s Morning Links, there was a great little piece from the always-reliable folks at Techdirt, featuring a video by Tom Bell which humorously draws attention to the ridiculousness of overly restrictive copyright law by pointing out just how much ‘accidental’ infringement an innocent person might do without even thinking.

Most people, Filthy Pirates notwithstanding, are decent, honest folks who really do pay for books and music and media when they use them—the popularity of iTines, Netflix, Spotify, Pandora et al attests to that! But do you mentally dock yourself karma points every time you sing Happy Birthday?

In the spirit of Bell’s amusing little video, I thought back to my last 24 hours. How much ‘infringement’ did I do?

- 7:30 am. Reading my book of daily essays on the bus. The inestimable Mr. Joseph Telushkin summarizes, as part of today’s lesson, the key points of two other books…

7:50 am. Guy beside me on the bus has his headphones on too loud, thus exposing me to music I did not pay for.

- 9:00 am. Heading down to my first class. As I wait for one of the teachers to release my group to me, the other teacher shows me a Pinterest pin for a craft she thinks I can do with the kids on Friday.

- 12:00 pm. Apparently, wedding video trailers are a thing now. Two co-workers, who happen to be cousins, both have them. There are several levels of potential ‘infrigement’ here, from use of the background song, to corporate logos in background shots, and of course the notion that the photographer, not the subject, owns the images in the first place…

- 3 pm. My mother is travelling this weekend, and forwarded me her hotel confirmation email so that I would have her number in case of emegencies. That email contained logos, artwork and so on which is no doubt proprietary to the hotel…

- 5 pm. I recently got into the Lego Minifig craze, and was searching for some reviews of the Simpsons ones on YouTube. Apparently, whole bunches of people have availed themselves of the opportunity to recreate the show’s theme song in Lego now that the proper minifigs are available for it. That’s numerous unauthorized uses of the song…

- 7 pm. Went on Facebook. Several joke forwards, stupid cat pictures, newspaper articles and so on…

This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek of course; many media companies have woken up to the realities of non-malicious sharing and even encourage it. The Toronto Star, for example, does not count articles read on Facebook as part of one’s 10 free reads per month. And one of those Simpsons credits makers states in the comments that he got a personal phone call from of of the show’s producers applauding his work.

But still, there are many who get so caught up in the Piracy is Bad banner that they lose sight of common sense. They fail to distinguish between an innocent ‘hey, check out this stupid cat picture’ and ‘let’s torrent the complete works of JK Rowling so everyone can read for free.’

Bell’s video is a refreshing reminder that a legal system based on common sense, not entertainment industry paranoia, is where we need to be.

 
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