It's S. 978, the bill that can lock up folks for up to five years for using copyrighted material on the Web. OpenCongress summarizes it like this:
The Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S. 978) makes unauthorized web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a possible penalty of up to 5 years in prison. Illegal streaming of copyrighted content is defined in the bill as an offense that "consists of 10 or more public performances by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copyrighted works" and has a total economic value, either to the copyright holder or the infringer, of at least $2,500.While I feel like Justin Bieber should not be as popular as he actually is - in fact I would give him Jeff Cohen's fame over Sean Astin's fame (or as much as I could relate his musical content to Sloth from The Goonies as possible) - he should not be locked up for covering his favorite songs. Neither should Karmin, Greyson Chance or Melanie Fiona.
Thanks to the open-ended language of this bill, three hots and a cot for five years can go to not only YouTubers but to Tweeters, Facebook(ers), MySpace(rs), Google+ers, Pandora(ers), AmazonCloud(ers), GrooveShark(ers), SoundCloud(ers), folks who own iPhones, Androids and email accounts because it's the sharing of streaming media that could be illegal.
Thinking about it, and maybe stretching it a little, bumping the stream of the Danny Brown and Black Milk album on speaker phones and then someone joins in on the tunes could come with a five-year sentence. How awesome is that?!
Here's another slightly-stretched scenario: those who want to make their own variation of The Wobble, The Wu-Tang, The Artichoke, or whatever the hot new dance craze can get the silver bracelets too. Oh, and that cute video of the eight-year-old singing Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass?" Illegal.
While the pressure to protect artists from other people making money off of streaming music without the artist's permission is understandable, the impulsive extremity of this act is foolish. If someone were to steal anything I've written off this blog and post it on their sites as their words, I would be pissed. However, to do it with an adoration for my voice (and attribution), or to do it on the grounds of some editing of some sort, I would understand.
Here's what's being done. Fight for the Future has launched a Free Bieber campaign and a petition people can sign to stop the bill from going forth. Once you visit FreeBieber.org, the petition will pop up asking for your email address. The petition is spread throughout the website as well.
The idea of penalizing folks like Karmin, Beiber, etc for the same reasons (and then some) is radical. Given most musicians feel like they are as good as - if not better - than the next man, most folks who cover other artists do not look to profit off of their adoration. More than likely, they want to place themselves in their favorite artist's shoes in their covers. Show me a band that wants to purely profit off of covering another artist, and I'll show you the Wiz Khalifa costume Billy Gardell (Mike from Mike & Molly) plans on wearing this Halloween weekend.