Sunday, July 3, 2011

S.978: Don't Panic

I have now received several comments and messages from folks on YouTube warning me about a US Senate Bill called S.978, which, if passed, will result in all of YouTube being shut down, the entire world thrown into jail, and the end of happiness for all eternity.

Exfanding Your Horizons would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to research the facts before fomenting panic after reading a single article or hearing a single rumor.

I've done some research on this Bill, and I've read a number of news articles ranging from the rational to the wildly overblown. Let me offer my own summary of what I understand about S.978 so that we can have a real discussion about the matter:

- S.978 attempts to increase the penalty for copyright infringement. You still need to be breaking the law in order for it to affect you; Fair Use still applies.

- S.978 attempts to expand and clarify what can be targeted for copyright infringement. You still need to be breaking the law in order for it to affect you; it will just be easier for someone to bring you to court.

- S.978 has enough vague wording that the Bill could potentially apply to many more situations than intended, including the "Let's Play" videos on YouTube that people are so concerned about. More on this in a moment.

- S.978 has not been finalized, approved, or passed into law. No matter how much support it may have, it is still a "What if?" for the time being.

In other words, at some point in the future, there might be negative consequences for breaking the law. As far as the big details relating to the main intent of this Bill go, I'm not concerned.

Regarding the little details about which the Internet is abuzz and about which the lawmakers seem not to care or be aware, I am also not concerned. Should S.978 be passed into law, real people will experience the aftermath, and if there is something deeply flawed with it, I expect it should become apparent pretty quickly.

We're not looking at a situation where Big Bad Government wants to oppress Poor Innocent YouTubers. Anything in conflict with the law is not going to magically disappear overnight. We're not suddenly going to have a legion of lawyers who will have the time and resources prosecute the likes of Little Jimmy Who's Got 72 Views On His "Let's Play Space Invaders" Video. S.978 cannot amend the fundamental nature of the way this nation works.

Even if this bill were to get passed into law as-is, we wouldn't be alone. If game companies big or small valued the free publicity they get from streaming video game tournaments and E3 preview videos, they would no doubt take a stand, or take steps toward accommodating us accordingly. Widespread application of absurd interpretations of the law would more than likely get the attention of folks with more authority and influence than the average person.

Though what I'd really be waiting for, if this situation became a reality, would be the day when one of the people who wrote or approved the Bill was brought to court for their cell phone ringtone violating the law as an "unauthorized public performance."

Yes, we can be aware of S.978 and make our opinions known about it. But our first reaction shouldn't be to whip everyone around us into a frenzy of fear.


JoeReviewer said...

Now imagine learning about s.978 the day after everyone learned about it. In the middle of the frenzy.

This is what happens when I leave the internet alone for 3 weeks.

Anyways, I would like to thank you for this perfectly rational approach to the situation. Hopefully this craze will blow over and we can wait for the next "end of all things gaming". Remember the whole thing about them trying to make m rated games illegal in California? (Exageration)

MrDragoniteTrainer said...

LOLed at the "Little Jimmy's 72 views on his 'Let's Play Space Invaders'!" anyways, you are right. This is WAY too overhyped for what it COULD do.

Flashman85 said...

Joseph: Yeah, I imagine that would be overwhelming. Two months later, you'd think it'd never happened.

MrDragoniteTrainer: Glad you liked that. :)