Copyright as a Hammer, not a Shield

From OpenCongress:

Big media companies and the Obama Administration have been asking Congress to change the copyright laws so that people who stream copyrighted content on the internet, whether intentionally or not, can be put in jail or charged massive fines.


The bill in question is S.978, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D, MN], to “amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes.” Specifically, it would raise illegal streaming from a misdemeanor to a felony by changing its legal status as a “public performance” to the same level as a “reproduction” or “distribution.” That would seem to mean that someone who unknowingly embeds a YouTube video on their site that contains material that is determined to be protected by a copyright could potentially face the same penalty as someone who runs a large-scale DVD bootlegging operation.

And thus begins the remix/rehash culture versus the corporate copyright fiefdoms. Or, as I see it, an incredibly good case for encouraging the use of Creative Commons for all sorts of mediums. For the artists and authors who want their fans to use and play with their creations, this law does everything opposite to it.

While I can understand and respect the right of creator to profit from their labors, it cannot be at the expense of fair use and its accepted derivatives.

(h/t: Alaskan Librarian)

7 thoughts on “Copyright as a Hammer, not a Shield

  1. For any works that I have done, I’d be happy enough to have the acknowledgement that I am the copyright holder. If I were to receive royalties for the works I’ve done, that would be even better. However to jail any that have violated seems to be a waste of the prison system and extreme punishment. Just worn them the first time, with a second offence being a reasonable fine.

    • It’s the civil penalties that concern me at a time when there is a call for innovation. That’s just not going to move the ball along, especially against other countries that are not as copyright restrictive.

  2. You certainly nailed it right with the “corporate copyright fiefdom” appellation. If the pro-traditional copyright argument actually had the creators and artists in mind, I might be more willing to entertain their argument, but this is mostly about large corporations reserving the right to strip a product or idea of all profit at the expense of pretty much everyone else. As things stand I’m fairly violently pro-CC, because I see a line in the sand (more like a brick wall) between those whose sole concern is creating profit for an entitled few (who are rarely the artists/creators, mind you) and the valid concerns of both creators and users.

    • What gets me is how this keeps people and companies moving along when they have the option of just sitting down on something they’ve copyrighted or patented? I believe in being able to get compensated for one’s work, but when it comes at the expense of the rest of society and progress (especially in the sciences), it puts my teeth on edge and makes me wonder about better ways to handle this.

      • Yes, I’m in the same place on the issue of cultural progres, definitely. But I have to say that I think the current “copyright war” has little to do with being compensated for one’s work; because, the facts clearly show that a more relaxed approach to copyright tends to *increase* sales, sometimes dramatically. It’s about corporate hegemony, plain and simple, and is only part and parcel of a broad swath of reactionary moves by established corporations in a desperate bid to keep control of the market. That probably makes me sound rather like a radical, and I’m really not in general, but on this issue I suppose maybe I am.

  3. Hi Andy, Thanks for spreading the word on this bill. I too see this as an opportunity to “encourage the use of Creative Commons for all sorts of mediums.” It may also be an opportunity to talk about orphan works and the many situations where a given item isn’t even on the market.

    Aside from the waste of federal resources this represents, I think this bill is also an effort to shield the record and movie industry from bad press. They got bad publicity from their badly aimed litigation campaign so now they want the government to take the blame for assessing extreme penalties.

    • I agree. Will they start suing people over streamed content like the RIAA went after people who downloaded songs? I can imagine there will some judicial headaches on this one.

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