An upcoming scene from AnyPrison, USA in about six months from now: "Hey, fresh fish, what are you in for?" "Streaming Game of Thrones on Justin.tv. You?" "Robbing the elderly, but for some reason, my sentence is shorter than yours..." An accurate portrayal of the current landscape of the Internet or simply a case of tin-foil paranoia? Considering the latest copyright-related Internet bill that was just introduced, perhaps not.
Thanks to the introduction of S. 978, introduced by two senators, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX), streaming copyrighted content -- movies, sports, television shows -- will become a felony, provided the bill makes it through. If you need a civics reminder on the process of how a bill becomes law, Schoolhouse Rock is here to assist:
I can't help but wonder if, under the conditions of S. 978, YouTube is guilty of a felony here...
While the text of the bill hasn't been released, Ars Technica was mailed a synopsis. Apparently, the idea is to change the parameters in relation to streaming copyrighted content. Under old conditions, streaming was seen as a public performance, and therefore, was not subject to the same levels of punishment as those who distributed such work. Now, these "public performances" will be included, making the act a felony.
Essentially, the bill makes considers streaming the same a distribution, and considering what kind of content is normally streamed across services like the aforementioned Justin.tv -- that is, copyrighted content -- the distinction is logical. Granted, such clarification has not gone over well with large portions of the Internet crowd, like Fark.com, for instance, it is a common sense distinction.
Under the new bill, offenders could face the following:
Online streamers can now face up to five years in prison and a fine in cases where:
They show 10 or more "public performances" by electronic means in any 180-day period and The total retail value of those performances tops $2,500 or the cost of licensing such performances is greater than $5,000
The bill makes no mention of those watching the streams, so you're free to watch with impunity. Just don't save or join in the streaming revolution.
Back to YouTube for a second. Considering their long battle with copyrighted material, are they liable if snippets from the latest episode of Family Guy shows up on their servers or does the bill target the user that uploaded the content in question? YouTube is merely a hosting service for videos, one that makes use of Google massive storage space. The service also pulls protected content, once its alerted to its presence. So again, would YouTube be at fault under S. 978 or would the user who uploaded the content be targeted. Without such a distinction, such loopholes are asking to exploited.
It's not hard to envision a "It wasn't me, it was YouTube" defense from some creative legal team in the near future.