Uploading Copyrighted Video to YouTube a Felony?

Hollywood has been contending with uploaded copyrighted content to YouTube or video streaming sites for some time. Even President Obama’s US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IP Czar), Victoria Espinel has been proposing a revamp of intellectual properties.

If you see a movie clip and want to share it with your friends on YouTube, but do not have permission from the studio, you could go to jail on a felony charge if Senate Bill 978 passes and gets signed into law. Don’t be too alarmed. The legislation calls for certain statistics before you are arrested. But why mess with the chances of ending up behind bars with a criminal record?

Hollywood has been contending with uploaded copyrighted content to YouTube or video streaming sites for some time. Even President Obama’s US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IP Czar), Victoria Espinel has been proposing a revamp of intellectual properties.

Now if Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) have their way, the bill would boost the charges for streaming unauthorized content to a full-blown felony. That clever idea comes via IP Czar.

A law currently exists that dictates “reproducing” and “distributing” copyrighted content are felony offenses. Streaming content is another story and is still considered a “public performance,” which carries lesser consequences. The new bill would add “public performance” of copyrighted material to the list of felonies.

Now before you freak out and delete all your stolen material, the way the bill is currently written, according to Ars Technica, might not affect you. The proposed language for the bill says, “the offender has to show the copyrighted material ten or more “public performances” by electronic means in any 180-day period and the total retail value of those performances tops $2,500 or the cost of licensing such performances is greater than $5,000.” The offender could face up to five years in prison as well as hefty fines.

If I do my math correctly, it looks like the bill is going after hefty offenders. I don’t think the uploaded movie clip I mentioned earlier would apply to the proposed law. It seems innocuous doesn’t it?

MPAA lobbyist Michael O’Leary speaks for his client in a statement he said, “Criminals are stealing, trafficking, and profiting off the investment that our workers devote to creating the quality films and TV shows that entertain a worldwide audience and bolster the American economy.”

That’s right. The bill comes with the full backing of movie makers, theater owners and our beloved Motion Picture Association of America. O’Leary added: “We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for introducing this important legislation to standardize the legal treatment of online content theft and helping ensure that federal law keeps pace with the changing face of criminal activity. We look forward to working with Members in the House and Senate towards its swift passage.”

At first, I thought the bill would not pass into law. But now that I have learned a little bit more about SB 978, the bill could pass into law because it is not aimed at an excited fan who whimsically posts a movie clip on YouTube. It’s geared toward those big time offenders who make money off the backs of hard working filmmakers.

However, I do suggest keeping an eye on this piece of legislation because the language could change and affect the any sort of streaming copyright violators.