Senate bill S.978 is authored by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Christopher Coons and John Cornyn. If signed into law, the bill would adjust the criminal copyright statutes. Meaning it would create copyright infringements in some forms of online linking, embedding and streaming a felony. If guilty, people could face up to 5 years in jail.
Those opposing S.978 suggest that supporters of the bill are not aware of the negative ramifications because of the high monetary rewards as a key factor of determining violators. Another issue that has come up recently is that those who are opposing the bill on YouTube, which are plenty, are not getting their facts straight and are explaining it wrong.
According to Mike Masnick at TechDirt, “Tragically, going through a bunch of the videos… nearly all of them get 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.”
Masnick also mentions that some of the incorrect statements may lead people to say the bill won’t pass because “something that stupid can’t pass”.
Historically, our country has seen a few stupid bills pass into law. You may not be aware of the fact that Congress in 2005 passed a law that allows members to visit a local IRS headquarters or send an agent, to learn all about your income or your family’s income. Majority Leader Tom DeLay claimed he had no idea such a provision was in the bill that he was voting on. How did Congress pass such a law?
What does S.978 propose?
If passed into law naysayers insist that there’s no problem here because (a) the bill requires the streams and embeds to be for commercial purposes and (b) because the “value” has to be greater than $2,500.
What Congress and YouTube videos ignore is that many sites can be shown to have commercial purposes. All you have to have is ads on your site, despite the fact the ads draw pennies, and you are drawing an income.
Masnick says, “And the ‘value’ of the work can easily be estimated or exaggerated at over $2,500.” He is making no claims 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.”
Nilay Patel at thisismynext.com blogged “I’ve been getting absolutely tons of emails and tweets about Senate 978.” But, Patel breaks down the bill nicely in his blog, which is worth viewing, says, “I’m not a huge fan of S.978, since I don’t think adding additional criminal penalties to our broken model of copyright law is very smart — the system is already hugely imbalanced in terms of liability.”
On a positive note, the ridiculousness of S.978 is getting the attention it deserves from YouTube users as well as bloggers like Patel. But, the key to preventing the bill from passing into law is to educate social media users properly with factual data. Then, they can contact their representatives and ask them to vote “no” on the bill with accurate data to back up their request.