We’ve probably all broken the law at some point in our lives. Even the people that proudly call themselves law-abiding citizens may have accidentally driven through a red light or not-so-accidentally stolen candy as a child. It’s thought about 1 in 3 Americans have some kind of police record, and the figure is about the same in the UK. Research shows that in the USA, about 70 percent of the population have done something that could have landed them in jail. That’s a fairly realistic statistic considering that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says around half of the population admit to having taken illicit substances. What you might not know, though, is that you’ve probably broken the law on occasions and are not even aware you did. Today we are going to explore these small crimes in this episode of the Infographics Show, Illegal Things That We Do Every Day.
One thing many of us do is watch our favorite shows and movies on streaming websites that haven’t paid for the right to show that content. While some of those look legal, according to the UK Federation Against Copyright Theft (or FACT), they are unlawful. This is because they don’t have permission to provide that content from the people that own it. As a viewer, FACT says you are actually committing “unlawful behavior” by supporting the criminals. Is it illegal in the USA? According to the Intellectual Property Institute at the University of Richmond law school, yes it is. Uploading unlicensed content is also illegal. Right now people are not prosecuted for watching or uploading, so you are are safe to watch something like Game of Thrones online. Downloading stolen content has always been illegal, but streaming seems to be a bit of a grey area. Nonetheless, this might soon change. An EU court in 2017 made what was called a landmark ruling that essentially stated that anyone watching a copied content stream is committing a civil offense. According to TorrentFreak, about half of all American millennials watch illegal content streams.
Staying with technology and the Internet, have you ever used a fake name for an account? Apparently your nom de plume of I’mAJerk66 is actually committing a crime according to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In 2010, a prison guard in the US was fined 500 bucks for using a fake Facebook name, while in the UK the Crown Prosecution Service is cracking down on fake social media profiles. It’s not that governments want to arrest people making up fun fake names, but they are more worried about online harassment and the spread of false information by people they cannot trace. One more thing, if you’ve ever jumped on someone else’s Wi-Fi to use the Internet without their permission, you’ve also broken the law.
There are probably a lot of law-abiding citizens out there now aware they are chronic law-breakers. But the next one will get just about everyone. The song Happy Birthday is not yours to sing in public, although it’s ok in the house. The song was copyrighted in the 80s by Time Warner for 25 million dollars, so you don’t have permission to do a public rendition of it. Do so, and you could be fined a hefty sum of money. That’s why you’ll hardly ever see it performed in movies. It is sometimes used, and that’s why Time Warner receives about 2 million dollars a year in Happy Birthday royalties.
Have you ever made a cash bet with friends? Well, having a wager with friends is technically illegal under the Illegal Gambling Act of 1970. This is in the USA at least. But it all depends on how much ‘chance’ is involved in the gambling and the amount of money. If the entire amount is more than 2,000 dollars, you are in fact running an illegal gambling operation. This is quite common in places of work, where many participants take part in inter-office sports gambling, especially after the boost in popularity of fantasy sports games. According to online gambling site LazerWager, 27 percent of Americans take part in such gambling, and if you are not living in Nevada you are actually risking a stint in prison.
And what if you won the fantasy football pool at work and celebrated with one too many drinks and then preceded to wobble home. Well, that could be illegal, too, even if you were just happily minding your own business. While it’s unlikely you’d get arrested, in many countries public intoxication is illegal. In the USA this is so, but if you live in the states of Nevada, Montana, or Missouri you’ll be fine as no public intoxication laws exist there. In Texas you don’t want to get caught drunk on the streets as it’s a Class C misdemeanor. In the UK it’s also an offense to be drunk in public, and you could risk a fine if very drunk. Australia has such laws, too, but you are more likely to get escorted home than you are fined if you are not causing trouble as Australian cops apparently take the “humane” approach.
When you get home late, whatever you do, don’t start vacuuming the house. In the UK it’s actually illegal to use a vacuum cleaner after 6pm and before 8am on weekdays, and illegal before 8am and after 1pm on weekends. The Australians are a little more lax, at least in Melbourne, where you are not allowed to use your vacuum cleaner between 10pm and 7am during weekdays and between 10pm and 9am during the weekends. No such law seems to exist in the USA, but in Denver it’s actually illegal to lend someone your vacuum cleaner. According to a law website, if you have noisy neighbors you have every right to sue them. You may have to prove the noise reached a certain amount of decibels, but if you can, you can expect about 30 bucks for each day you were a victim of their loudness. In this case, if you’ve ever been loud at night and have neighbors, you may have committed an offense.
According to research, the Brits consider themselves to be a very law abiding nation with 98 percent of people saying they don’t break laws. Well, some other research says they break on average five rules every week or 16,250 in a lifetime. These might just be small breaches, but nonetheless, they are laws. Some of the most common offenses are dropping cigarette butts on the floor and spitting out chewing gum in public places. Singapore was said to have made chewing gum illegal, which isn’t actually true. However, it does have quite strict “gum control” which means the sale or importation of gum is illegal today in the country. Spitting gum on the floor will also get you in big trouble in clean Dubai, and also in Thailand, where policemen have preyed on tourists who commit the act of cigarette or gum dropping in public areas. In most countries littering is illegal, and it doesn’t have to be a lot of litter. It’s illegal in the USA, but in Alabama, Michigan, parts of Florida, Ohio and California, just spitting on the floor could end with a fine. In 2013 in England a man was fined for spitting, which was the very first time a court had charged someone for such an offense.
Staying with the Brits, according to some media on the subject of breaking laws, the most common offense in the country is walking across a crosswalk when the little green man is not flashing. 33 percent of Brits have apparently done this. A similar street crime in the USA is jaywalking, which means pretty much the same but walking anywhere on the street unlawfully. As some scary viral videos demonstrate, this could even ignite the anger of the police. You might also get an on the spot fine for jaywalking in Germany, Singapore, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Australia. The Dutch legalized jaywalking in 1997 and have since reported absolutely no negative effects. In many nations, such as Japan, Hungary, Thailand, China and Indonesia, putting your trust in the green man could be disastrous, as crosswalks are often ignored by drivers.
Speaking of drivers, the most broken law in the USA that people actually get charged with is speeding. It’s thought about 112,000 people get a speeding ticket every day. But after seeing this video, speeding might not be the most common offense. Has anyone out there not committed any of the offenses above? Better still, has anyone ever been charged for one the offenses or know someone who has? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Americans vs Europeans! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!