Earlier this summer, a movie called “The Purge” came out. The premise of this relatively disturbing thriller is that for one night a year – a 12 hour period-all crime is legal. As you can tell from the trailer below, the “legal crime” that first comes to our depraved minds is murder, assault, rape, robbery, and every other type of violent crime.
Of course, us in the legal profession generally occupy our minds with things significantly less provocative (but sometimes equally disturbing), so one of my first thoughts went to what a 12-hour free-for-all would mean to intellectual property laws. In my mind, I saw rogue factories firing up the conveyors and ready to spit out bottles upon bottles of unauthorized pharmaceuticals (What’s the FDA going to do about it?). I envisioned pirate ships off the coast of California prepared to flood the market with knockoff handbags. I saw teenagers sitting at their computers firing up the old Napster with the intent of willfully violating copyright laws to get their hands on advanced copies of Taylor Swift’s most recent drivel. And then, I saw my anarchist fantasy crumble as I realized what actually constitutes infringement under intellectual property laws.
You see, intellectual property laws generally don’t provide a single bite at the apple for infringement purposes. Patent laws make it unlawful to “make, use, offer to sell, or sell” the patented invention. Good luck accomplishing all of that in a single 12-hour span. Copyright grants the owner the exclusive right to, among other things, reproduce and distribute the copyrighted work. Given the broad scope of what constitutes a copy/reproduction, you could probably get away with downloading Taylor Swift from Napster initially, but they’d get you when you made a new copy the next morning by downloading it to your iPod. Trademark infringement would probably be the easiest to get away with on Purge Night. But seriously, who’s going to buy trademarked goods on Purge night knowing that they likely did not originate from source that you’ve come to know and trust!
So what does it all mean? You just can’t believe everything that happens in the movies. Most of it is totally unrealistic.