Senate bill S. 978 could make criminals of people posting “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube, and the ECA wants you to help fight it.
If you’re on the internet and reading a website like this one, then it’s a safe bet you’ve heard of S. 978, a bill currently being pushed through the U.S. Senate. While reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works – for example, sending a movie over a P2P service – are currently felonies in the United States, the online streaming of said works is considered a “public performance,” and so is not. S. 978 would change that.
While most people would probably agree that aiding creators in fighting illegal piracy of their work is a good thing, people have argued that the potential problem with Bill S. 978 is in its vagueness – especially given the popularity of video streaming sites like YouTube. Consumers’ advocacy group the Entertainment Consumers Association is urging denizens of the internet to write to their local Senator (if in the States, naturally) to protest the bill, and has offered some examples to show why this bill could be a Very Bad Idea:
In plain terms this means that if you stream your game play to show your friends and it’s viewed by 1 or more friends ten times or less, you could go to jail for up to five years. Yeah, really.
Everyone is at risk. The vagueness regarding value leaves it to copyright holders to determine the possible costs to them. If they want to prosecute through that loophole, they can. A child playing piano of their favorite performer on YouTube, a video of a child dancing to their favorite songs and video game players showing off walk-throughs, speed trials and live streaming their games are all examples of items that’d be prosecutable under this legislation.
In other words, this might not just affect people who upload movies onto YouTube for others to watch, but people who upload videos of themselves playing a game – or making fun of it. Of course, all of those examples are obviously hyperbolic worst case situations.
“While we believe in the rights of copyright holders,” writes the ECA, which famously came to blows with EA over draconian DRM in Spore, “this legislation’s broad language would make criminals out of millions of Americans.”
If you’re in the USA and interested in helping combat the bill – or just helping make the language less broad-minded and vague – then you can join the ECA’s letter-writing campaign here. For those of you outside of the country, just keep your fingers crossed if you support it. If you’re against it, then I guess you just shouldn’t do anything either way
Here you can see the process through which a bill becomes law in the United States, as illustrated by classic education-music program Schoolhouse Rock. Somewhat ironically, if S. 978 passes, this video will probably be taken down. How ’bout them apples, eh?