Fight for the Future (FFTF), a new organization dedicated to preserving the rights of Americans regarding technology, is advocating against U.S. Senate bill S. 978 as its first campaign. In a successful grab for attention, FFTF is using Justin Bieber as an example of who it believes could be criminalized should the law pass and has launched FreeBieber.org to share its viewpoint.
The proposed law would make it a felony to stream unlicensed content ten times during any 180-day period and that and has a total economic value, either to the copyright holder or the infringer, of at least $2,500. It has considerable support from nearly 50 entertainment industry organizations, including the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, and is opposed by citizen rights advocacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Entertainment Consumers Association, among others.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Currently, if a criminal is selling pirated DVDs or CDs on a street corner, and they’re worth at least $2500, it is a felony. But if that same person is in their basement and felony streaming movies or books, whatever they could do, they could only be charged with a misdemeanor. This legislation fixes that loophole,” Klobuchar said.
FFTF notes that Bieber’s rise to fame began with YouTube videos of the now-star singing cover versions of popular songs. Since those videos had a commercial purpose (to get a recording contract) and are still online, the group contends that S.978 means he could be prosecuted and imprisoned for five years with a felony conviction, as could anyone who posts things like karaoke videos, footage of their kids dancing to music, and videos of anything that happens to have music playing in the background.
Klobuchar said, “The bill is not intended nor does it allow law enforcement to prosecute people who may stream videos and other copyrighted works to their friends without intending to profit from the work of the copyright owner. It also does not allow prosecutors to go after individuals that innocently post links on their blogs to copyrighted protected works.”
FFTF co-founder Holmes Wilson is not reassured. “What’s genuinely troubling is that this bill applies to a massive slice of social media activity,” he said. “And if you doubt that the RIAA and MPAA … would push the government to go after teenage Facebook users, remember: these are the same people who used $7,000-per-song civil penalties designed to punish large-scale commercial piracy to sue 14-year-old p2p users and their families.”
FreeBieber.org has posted a protest video featuring Bieber in prison, and it encourages people to create their own video to post and send to Congress. It even supplies helpful tools like a jail bar overlay.
Full text of Senate bill S. 978 [PDF] – http://tinyurl.com/5wqhptb
Copyhype’s response to the activist groups – http://tinyurl.com/3r4ge3c