The Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) announced that it supports the Entertainment Consumer Association (ECA) in its opposition of US Senate Bill S. 978. The bill seeks to amend the criminal penalty provision for "criminal infringement of a copyright," and for other purposes. As the DCIA points out in its support statement, the bill is currently being fast-tracked through Congress without "adequate opportunities for critical review."
Here is an important part of the group’s support of the ECA’s efforts:
"If enacted, S.978 would amend current copyright law to include not only the unauthorized replication and redistribution of copyrighted works, but also ‘public performances by electronic means.’
Specifically, US citizens would be subject to severe penalties, including felony-length prison sentences, for making or offering ten or more public performances by electronic means during any 180-day period of one or more copyrighted works; if the total retail value of the performances, or the total economic value of such public performances to the infringer or to the copyright owner, could exceed $2,500; or if the total fair market value of licenses to offer performances of those works would exceed $5,000.
While the bill is intended to ensure that the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material is deemed unlawful, similar to the ways in which unlicensed downloading and uploading already is – which we strongly support in principle – its wording is so inarticulate as to potentially expose people to serious punishment for widely accepted, harmless, and frequently performed behaviors."
The group goes on to say that the bill’s sponsors, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are misguided in introducing this legislation because it contains a "very dangerous measure" that would in many ways be "tantamount to repealing the First Amendment."
The group also points out that this bill comes at a time when game developers and publishers where sharing content such as photos and videos with the community is a feature. Because the law is so vague and doesn’t address what fair use is, someone with a popular video containing gameplay or other copyrighted footage on YouTube could potentially get in trouble.
Finally the DCIA encourages the public, its supporters and it members to join in on the ECA’s letter writing campaign.
Truly the only way to fight such a bill is to let your let your elected officials know that you strongly dislike what they are doing.
[Full disclosure: GamePolitics is an ECA publication.]