by Mike Masnick, Techdirt
This is really no surprise, but the same Senate Judiciary Committee that unanimously approved the PROTECT IP Act, despite worries from internet experts and major media about how it would break the internet, has now also unanimously approved the anti-internet streaming bill that makes it a felony to stream certain videos online -- potentially putting people in jail for embedding YouTube videos or just putting up YouTube lip synching videos.
What's really troubling here is that the media and plenty of concerned citizens have directly raised the issues about the unintended consequences of this law. And while Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn and Christopher Coons continue to insist that (of course) the law is not intended to be used against such people, they have made no move to fix the bill. Even supporters of this bill, who insisted that we were wrong about what the bill allowed, eventually conceded that our argument was accurate and that this bill could be used to put people in jail for embedding a YouTube video or doing a lip synch video.
And that's a huge, huge problem. Of course, no one thinks the bill is for that purpose directly or that it's going to be widely used for such purposes. However, the bill, as written, clearly allows law enforcement to charge people with a felony for that, assuming it meets a few other conditions. But those conditions are pretty minimal (ads on your page? you're in trouble...). The risk here of abuse is a serious risk, and it's incredibly troubling that Klobuchar, Cornyn and Coons failed to change or adapt the bill, and worse that the rest of the Senate Judiciary Committee allowed the bill to move forward in such a broken state. They were clearly made aware of problems with the bill, but directly chose not to make any changes. How do you explain that other than incompetence or corruption?
Embedding YouTube Videos May Soon Be a Felony
Techdirt reports that Senate bill 978 – a bill to amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes – may be used to prosecute people for embedding YouTube videos.
According to Mark Masnick, if a website embeds a YouTube video that is determined to have infringed on copyright and more than 10 people view it on that website, the owner or others associated with the website could face up to five years in prison.
Read Masnick’s article here. He explains how the new law would expand copyright violations from reproducing and distributing to performing – including streaming video over the internet.
As readers of Infowars.com know, many videos are removed from YouTube after copyright owners complain about infringement. This happens with thousands of news clips every year. Most people are familiar with the now common black box replacing a video that says the video has been removed for copyright reasons.
If enacted, this law will go one step further and turn people who embed a copyrighted video into criminals. It will also set the stage to criminalize linking to copyrighted information — like corporate media news sources — and shut down the alternative media.
It will also make people think twice about putting up all kinds of videos, from news reports to clips from documentaries and other educational material.
It does not take a vivid imagination to realize the political implications of this legislation.
Here is the full text of the bill.
It should be noted that outlawing certain activities on the internet is instrumental to the Obama administration’s copyright policy.
In March, the White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, provided Congress with a White Paper (available for download here), outlining a series of the Obama Administration’s recommended legislative changes to combat online piracy and counterfeiting.
“Significantly, the recommendations include making it a felony offense to stream infringing content and giving Federal agencies wiretapping authority to obtain evidence of criminal copyright and trademark offenses,” David Makarewicz wrote for Infowars.com on March 17.
Obama’s emerging policy on streaming media dovetails with his administration’s effort to seize web domains. The Department of Homeland Security now arrests web site operators under its “In Our Sites” program.
“On the pretext of protecting intellectual property from infringement and counterfeiters, it’s about fast-tracking Internet distribution and information technology rules to subvert Net Neutrality, privacy, and personal freedoms – global rules for unrestricted free trade, undermining universal, affordable free access, civil liberties, legitimate commerce, and the right of sovereign nations to go their own way,” writes Steve Lendman.
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In addition to outlawing video streaming, new legislation “would impose a strong, top-down enforcement regime, with new cooperation requirements upon (ISPs), including perfunctionary disclosure of customer information. The proposal [the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement] also bans ‘anti-circumvention measures which may affect online anonymity systems and would likely outlaw multi-region CD/DVD players. The proposal also specifies a plan to encourage developing nations to accept the legal regime,” imposing consequences for opting out,” a Wikileaks document disclosed in May of 2008.
So-called “secondary copyright liability” will be used to criminalize what is now routine behavior on the internet. It will also be used by the political establishment to eliminate the internet activity – primarily in the form of alternative media – of those who oppose what is shaping up to be a totalitarian state.