The very technologies that enhance our media experiences are rapidly bringing us closer to the Panopticon state in which a near-total enforcement of intellectual property rights becomes viable. With the requisite advances in voice recognition software, every car stereo could be equipped with ears that monitor the noise in a car. Like a radio-frequency identification toll card, the mechanism could determine each song being hummed inside the car during the course of a month and then automatically bill the car’s owner for the licensing rights to perform those copyrighted musical compositions or create such derivatives of the sound recordings.
For the purposes of this Gedankenexperiment, we assume the worst-case scenario of full enforcement of rights by copyright holders and an uncharitable, though perfectly plausible, reading of existing case law and the fair use doctrine. Fair use is, after all, notoriously fickle and the defense offers little ex ante refuge to users of copyrighted works
Dude. The other day at work some people launched into the old Happy Birthday song for a fellow co-worker. THAT is copyright infringement. Not on any level that could reasonably ever get prosecuted, but it is.
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