from the good-for-them dept
We’ve been talking a lot about Senate bill S.978, from Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn and Christopher Coons, which would adjust the criminal copyright statutes to make some forms of linking/embedding/streaming a felony for which people could face 5 years in jail. As we’ve noted from the beginning, the really scary part is the ignorance of people supporting this bill, in ignoring how it could make tons of people liable. They insist that there’s no problem here because (a) the bill requires the streams/embeds to be for commercial purposes and (b) because the “value” has to be greater than $2,500. What they ignore (despite plenty of people pointing it out) is that it’s not hard for people to show that something is done for commercial purposes. If you have ads on your site, even if they make you pennies, you’re “making money.” And the “value” of the work can easily be estimated or exaggerated at over $2,500. Again, no one is claiming that the feds are suddenly going to go after your average YouTube embedder, but the problem with this change to the law is that it could be used that way. Federal prosecutors have made use of ambiguous or questionable laws like this in the past, such as attempts to misuse the CFAA bill, which is designed for those who break into computer systems, against people like Lori Drew who was mean to a teenager on MySpace.
We’ve noted that the bill is getting more attention of late, and it appears that the YouTube community has awakened to the problems with it. If you now do a YouTube search on s978, there are a rapidly growing number of results, with plenty of people speaking out against the bill, in part due to claims and some videos from YouTubers related to worries from video gamers.
Tragically, going through a bunch of the videos… nearly all of them gets the facts wrong in some manner (sometimes getting nearly all the details wrong). I worry about that, because it allows politicians to brush aside the very real concerns about the unintended consequences of the bill. Also, some of the incorrect statements seem to lead to people saying that the bill won’t pass because “something that stupid can’t pass.” And, indeed, no bill is going to pass that will force all these people to take their videos down or to fine them for old videos as some have suggested. The risk is in how the bill could be used by federal prosecutors to go after people embedding certain videos, and then using the letter of the law (though clearly not the spirit) to go after people.
It’s good to see so many people speaking out, but it would be better if they spoke factually about the bill, rather than running with some of the wilder assumptions that people seem to be making.