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.It's always officially about the copyright. But there's that whole slippery slope thing:
“As technology rapidly evolves, our laws must be updated to protect creativity and innovation,” said a statement by Cornyn.
But critics say a section of the bill provides for steep penalties -- up to five years in prison -- for “publicly performing” copyrighted material and embedding the video to sites like YouTube.
“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, a former White House counsel for online protection and the founder of the online safety advisory firm SSP Blue.
The new law will not target “individuals or families streaming movies at home,” said a statement from Klobuchar. She said the bill will instead target “criminals that are intentionally streaming thousands of dollars in stolen digital content and profiting from it.”Indeed. Ask the people who were sued by the RIAA and threatened with prison time for file sharing. This is the next step in that mentality, and it's being pushed by people who should know better, but who apparently don't know enough about how the Intertubes works.
Mary LaFrance, a copyright law professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, believes the bill primarily focuses on those who intend to make money from streaming copyrighted material on the Internet. “You have to have the purpose of commercial advantage or financial gain,” she said.
But Nigam thinks lawmakers will face a “nightmare” when it comes to actually executing the new measure.
“Because this is a federal law, what it’s saying is that you can go to federal prison for up to five years,” said Nigam. “That…is a really big deal.”