Every day, your life is touched by copyright law. Snapping a photo, listening to music, even the act of reading this webpage all put you in the realm of copyright law, even if you never see it directly.
Every now and then, though, copyright law, and the muddled state it’s in, reveals itself in a bizarre story: someone gets sued for selling used textbooks, or singing a hundred-year-old song. A great new music or video streaming service is declared illegal, then legal again, then left in limbo. Or sometimes, it’s just the whole range of arguments that crop up when one artist accuses another of ripping them off.
Sometimes that’s because the law is simply complex—copyright law applies to lots of things, and there are a lot of things to cover. Sometimes, it’s because the law is outdated—courts are trying to fit new technologies and ways of appreciating creative works that weren’t considered, or even invented, when the laws were written. And sometimes, it’s convoluted because powerful lobbies have made it that way to benefit themselves—sometimes at the expense of others, but almost always at the expense of having a simple, easy-to-read law.
What we hope to do here is make the law a little easier to understand, in two different ways. First, by using this page to answer some frequently asked questions and clear up some misconceptions about copyright law. But more importantly, we want—with your help—to work towards changing the law and making it make sense for today’s world.
Copyright law doesn’t have to be confusing. We at Public Knowledge want to fix that through Reforming Copyright.