Ever wonder what the world would be like if copyright holders actually enforced their rights on a regular basis? Where IP is respected to the nth degree? You don't want to know.
But in case you do, Bruce Schneier points to an excellent law review article by John Tehranian: "Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap" [PDF]:
By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges).
There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John's activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing.
We don't want a nation of pirates, to be sure. But we also don't want a nation of strict copyright enforcers, either. The result would be chaos or, at best, bureaucracy so thick that nothing would ever get done.
It's good that sanity reigns supreme, for the most part, and people realize that a fair amount of "remixing" of their IP is good for society and, by extension, good for them.