Free Justin Bieber: Do We Really Want Congress To Make Bieber A Felon?

from the say-no-to-s.978 dept

We've talked a few times about s.978, the bill from Senator Amy Klobuchar, that attempts to make streaming videos potential felonies. The bill is poorly drafted (at best). It basically just adds "public performance" as a possible felony under the law. That seems simple, but it's way too broad, in an era when all sorts of things can be a public performance. Defenders of s.978 again insist that it's not that bad because the law would only apply to willful "commercial" infringers -- but as we've seen repeatedly, the feds seem to interpret that extremely broadly.

Thus, the bill could, in fact, be used against people streaming videos via YouTube for their own benefit. People like... Justin Bieber. In fact, a new advocacy group has kicked off a campaign against S.978 by asking people to help free Justin Bieber.
As they point out, Bieber became famous by posting videos of himself singing famous songs on YouTube as a kid.
As the campaign notes, this video was a big part of advancing Bieber's massively successful music career -- so you could easily make the case that it was clearly commercial infringement. It was "willful" and he clearly intended to infringe on the Chris Brown song. Clearly it was for "personal gain." As the law notes, you don't have to make money directly from the video for it to be criminal infringement. The law "does not require that a defendant actually realize a commercial advantage or private financial gain. It is only necessary that the activity be for the purpose of "financial gain or benefit." Check. It also has to involve 10 or more "performances" within 180 days. That video has over 35 million views. Check. And did it cause more than $2,500 in losses to the rights holder? Given how the RIAA defines losses, hell yes. Think of all that unlicensed use. If the label licensed the song for 35 million plays, I'm sure it would have cost a lot more than $2,500.

Game, set, match. Under Klobuchar's streaming felony bill, Justin Bieber likely committed a felony.

Now, I realize that many people don't much like Bieber or his music, but does he deserve to go to jail? Now, obviously, defenders of s.978 will claim that they don't intend to go after the likes of Justin Bieber. But just the fact that they could suggests a massively problematic bill. And, realistically, the problem isn't the Biebers of the world, but the next kids who upload a video of themselves lip synching to some song. This is a massively problematic bill, and hopefully you'll check out the Free Bieber site to help let Congress know that this bill is bad news.

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  1. icon
    The eejit (profile), 19 Oct 2011 @ 2:53pm

    Re:

    So you admit that it's just free publicity, and not starving artists out of their livelihoods?

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