Friday, June 10, 2011

New Law If Passed Would Jail Those Who Lip Sink To Songs On Youtube

Record labels are clamoring for a chance to have their artist lip-synch alongside 16-year-old YouTube sensation Keenan Cahill in, of all places, his bedroom.

But a proposed amendment to the federal copyright infringement law will put the brakes those who are thinking about launching their YouTube careers, and hedging that they won’t have to first license songs and other material.

Senate Bill 978, a bipartisan measure introduced last month by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), is backed by supporters who say it closes glaring loopholes in current copyright infringement law created by the realities of the digital age.

The bill would criminalize individuals -- slapping them with up to five years in prison -- for “publicly performing” copyrighted material without the permission of its owners.

“As technology rapidly evolves, our laws must be updated to protect creativity and innovation,” said a statement by Cornyn

Cahill’s manager, David Graham, said record labels have contacted the teen in an effort to use the copyrighted material in his YouTube videos for promotional purposes.

But what about the average person who lip-syncs and plays a copyrighted song in the background of their YouTube video without the permission of a record label?

Mary LaFrance, a copyright law professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the person would be exempt from any consequences because the bill primarily focuses on those who intend to make money from streaming copyrighted material on the Internet.

Websites like JustinTV and Ustream have come under fire because of site members who often illegally stream copyrighted material, such as pay-per-view events, televisions programs, sporting events, and music.

“You have to have the purpose of commercial advantage or financial gain,” LaFrance said.

But critics say the bill’s steep penalties, which include jailing those who upload “public performances” viewed online 10 or more times, are excessive.

“It seems like (the bill) is attacking the core of the Internet itself, which is to promote communication amongst people all over the world,” said Hemanshu “Hemu” Nigam, former White House counsel for online protection and founder of online safety advisory firm SSP Blue.

If the bill is passed, Nigam said, something as simple as a YouTube video of a school recital with copyrighted music in the background could potentially expose students and anyone else who participated in the video to prosecution.

But the bill’s supporters say that’s not going to happen -- unless those individuals wind up turning a profit off their videos of $2,500 or more.

“The new law will not target individuals or families streaming movies at home,” said Klobuchar in a statement. She said the bill would instead target “criminals that are intentionally streaming thousands of dollars in stolen digital content and profiting from it.”

This may be good news for Cahill’s fan base, but Nigam believes lawmakers will have a nightmare executing a measure with such steep consequences.

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