21 June 2011

Senators Want To Put People In Jail For Embedding YouTube Videos

No, seriously, Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn and Christopher Coons are proposing to make posting the wrong sort of Youtube videos a felony:
Okay, this is just getting ridiculous. A few weeks back, we noted that Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn and Christopher Coons had proposed a new bill that was designed to make "streaming" infringing material a felony. At the time, the actual text of the bill wasn't available, but we assumed, naturally, that it would just extend "public performance" rights to section 506a of the Copyright Act.

Supporters of this bill claim that all it's really doing is harmonizing US copyright law's civil and criminal sections. After all, the rights afforded under copyright law in civil cases cover a list of rights: reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works or perform the work. The rules for criminal infringement only cover reproducing and distributing -- but not performing. So, supporters claim, all this does is "harmonize" copyright law and bring the criminal side into line with the civil side by adding "performance rights" to the list of things.

If only it were that simple. But, of course, it's not. First of all, despite claims to the contrary, there's a damn good reason why Congress did not include performance rights as a criminal/felony issue: because who would have thought that it would be a criminal act to perform a work without permission? It could be infringing, but that can be covered by a fine. When we suddenly criminalize a performance, that raises all sorts of questionable issues.
The problem here is that people do not understand what IP is.

People seem to think that it's property.  It's no more property than a liquor license is.

It's a limited time limited exclusive license created to, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

It's not about creating progressively punitive and extortive provisions, largely because the holders of these licenses have lots of money to wave around, and want ways to extort more money.


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