“When you know the truth it will drive you insane …” so said Aldous Huxley and who are we to argue with Huxley.
Ask anyone involved in the creation, appropriation, infringement, adjudication, sales or licensing of intellectual property this simple question: “To what do you attribute the increased amount of stealing or infringing on the works of others?”
You are likely to receive one or more stock answers from the following list:
- Digital makes stealing anything digital, well, easy;
- Why spend time creating when you can quickly steal;
- You are not likely to get caught and even less likely to get sued;
- It takes talent to create and but only a keyboard to infringe;
- Those under 45 years old have been stealing music and other IP their whole lives;
- Everybody does it
- If it’s on the Internet, it’s free
- It’s just an innocent mistake
- The check is in the mail (Oh wait…. that’s from another similar list. Please disregard this last one.)
There is a germ of truth in each of the above. We have a simple answer, a one word plain English answer, whenever a judge, professor or creator asks us our opinion on the subject. That one word is “Money”. You can also substitute Benjamins, pesos, clams, shekels, ducats, lettuce, moola, simoleons, and so on.
You can also choose a variety of clichés and authors.
Ben Franklin’s: “A penny saved is a penny earned” or
Oscar Wilde’s: “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is”
Woody Allen’s: “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons”.
Barack Obama’s: “Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.”
Marlene Dietrich’s: “There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich”.
It is our experience that actual and real cases of “innocent infringement” are few and far between, although the claim is often made. Nearly every infringement case Ed has litigated over many decades involved an infringer using images they wanted and either couldn’t get or didn’t want to pay for. The most typical infringer is not an individual. The usual defendants include, but are not limited to: TV networks, newspapers, magazines, websites, songwriters, record companies, department stores, corporate websites, photo stock agencies, and on and on.
They are all presumably sophisticated licensors and licensees of intellectual property. They know what they are doing with respect to IP (Intellectual Property) or at best, the law says they should know when and how to license IP that they do not own. The irony of claims of “innocence” by these sophisticated companies, whose lifeblood is IP, is not lost to on either judges or jurors.
Stealing and/or digitally altering the work of others without license saves the infringer $$$$$. It is just that simple. With the odds of the image being registered, the odds of getting caught, along with the odds of being sued by the creator, inevitably brings these infringers to the clichéd conclusion that, “Crime Pays”.
To those of you who believe in the basic morality and goodness of human beings, and believe a majority of infringements are innocent, you are welcome to think the best of your fellow man (or multinational corporation). Good for you Mary Sunshine, the world needs more optimists. You’re optimistic, but odds set by the casino of real life are against you. Having worked on countless number of claims, our experience dictates an unfortunately high degree of cynicism.
Sometimes complicated questions are answered in simple, direct English. We believe in the eternal, three words of wisdom and advice by Watergate’s Deep Throat to simply “Follow the money”.