S. 978 is a reckless attempt to attack online streaming by focusing on the “unlawful public performance” area of copyright law. By increasing the criminal penalties for certain online public performances, the bill will impose a chilling effect around the posting and creation of online video. Moreover, it will hamper the pace of innovation as users, websites, and investors cope with the uncertainty of running afoul of one of the more vague sections of copyright law. Act now and tell your Senators to oppose this shortsighted bill!
Under certain conditions, an “unlawful public performance” of a copyrighted work is already a crime. But this bill targets online streaming in an effort to give the government more enforcement power to bear—particularly against websites that the entertainment industry believes to be threatening.
There have been few court decisions regarding public performance online. That means that if this bill passes, it’s hard to predict whom the government will target. Government agents may choose to go after individual users, or entire websites and video platforms. Given the history of the government’s approach to copyright enforcement, the government may well wind up taking cues from trigger-happy copyright holders. The attempt to expand criminal penalties for online streaming also reeks of a means to stock the arsenal of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in performing more wild seizures of domain names.
Bills like S. 978 are the “inch” from which the government and rightsholder industry will take a “mile” out of freedom and innovation on the Internet. S. 978 was recently approved by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to be considered by the entire Senate, so your action is urgently needed. Contact your Senators now to let them know to OPPOSE this bill!