A Law for Nobody

Imagine that there is a law, and that the officials require everyone to obey this law. I suspect that this isn’t hard for you to imagine. But now imagine the following reactions to this law:

1. Many people choose not to obey this law. In fact, about a third of the population chooses to willfully disobey.

2. Many more people just don’t care about the law. In fact, about half the population thinks that this law is a bad idea, and that it should be fixed, or repealed.

3. Everyone breaks the law without knowing it. The entire population. The law is so difficult to follow that no one can avoid breaking it.

Amazingly, this law is not a drug law (although I suspect that these numbers might be applicable to a great many drug laws).

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, then you can guess that I’m talking about my old favorite, copyright/IP law. And here are my sources for those numbers:

1. Bastille Day Bulletin: Nearly One-Third Of French Citizens Storm The Gates Of Online Piracy
The bulletin notes that the number of violators might be even higher, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

2. Study: Half Of All Young People In UK Think Digital Content Should Be Free To Download
Note that the study described here suggests that the numbers in the USA might be even higher.

3. Now this is the fun one. Go read Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap or just watch this video by Tom Bell. Consider the infringing actions listed therein, and ask yourself how many you’ve done today.

In other words, we have a sizable minority that’s completely opposed to IP law, a slight majority that’s mostly opposed to IP law, and an absolute totality that’s constantly breaking IP law. By themselves, each of these factors are sufficient to compel us to re-examine IP law. Taken all together, they should compel us to revile IP law. Right now, the law is helping nobody.