Free Justin Bieber: Could Covering A Song On YouTube Land You In The Slammer?

Josh WolfordSocial Media

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A new campaign is using Justin Bieber to raise awareness about a current Senate bill that could have devastating effects on the YouTube community.

As of right now, there is a bill in the United States Senate that would penalize those who stream copyrighted materials over the internet. S.978 would make this action a felony, punishable with up to 5 years in prison.

Here's the crux of the bill, as defined on Open Congress -

Makes unauthorized web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a possible penalty of up to 5 years in prison. Illegal streaming of copyrighted content is defined in the bill as an offense that "consists of 10 or more public performances by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copyrighted works" and has a total economic value, either to the copyright holder or the infringer, of at least $2,500.

The bill, introduced back in May by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and co-sponsored by Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Chris Coons, is supported by the MPAA, RIAA, Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild and many more.

Some are quite concerned at the implications to the bill, saying that it could criminalize things that millions and millions of internet users do everyday. And here's where Justin Bieber comes in.

Under the proposed law, you could spend time in jail for posting a video to YouTube of you covering a famous song, as long as it got more than 10 views in 6 months. The site explains it in this way:

This is a video of child celebrity Justin Bieber singing "With You" by the artist Chris Brown. YouTube videos like this one were what made him famous. Tons of kids do this for fun, and many now-popular artists got started in this same way.

Copyright law is so extreme, just singing somebody else's song in public could be infringement. Because he and his mother posted the videos to advance his music career, it's commercial infringement. And a new bill would make this a felony.

The maximum sentence would be five-years, just for singing a cover! Other online video "crimes" could include: videos of a school play, a professional baseball game, or videos with incidental background music (even just a ringtone). Nuts, right?

They ask you to sign a petition against Senate bill 978,

If you remember that Justin Bieber's path to superstardom began with some YouTube covers of Chris Brown songs, you see why they are using Bieber as a poster boy for this bill. It sounds crazy, but under the proposed new law they say that Bieber could be facing 5 years in prison.

Of course, chances are slim that we'll ever see Bieber in jail (until he hits his rebellious Lindsay Lohan phase). And this website is a hyperbolic but humorous way to raise awareness. But the implications of the bill are a bit disturbing. Imagine all the ways that it could alter the online video landscape.

Here's a video about the campaign -

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments.

Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf