The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) is calling on gamers to join a new campaign against Bill S.978.

What is Bill S.978 you ask? It's also known as the "anti-streaming bill" aimed at making tougher copyright laws with such a broad language that the ECA feels that it could end up making criminals out of millions people who harmlessly stream little more than gameplay from their favorite video games for friends, something widely popular in the world of MMORPGs.

The Bill essentially makes the streaming of copyrighted content a felony and states that people can face up to 5 years in prison if they:

1) Make or offer 10 or more public performances by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copyrighted works; and

2) If the total retail value of the performances, or the total economic value of such public performances to the infringer or to the copyright owner, could exceed $2,500; or

3) the total fair market value of licenses to offer performances of those works would exceed $5,000

The ECA statement explains just how broad the interpretation of the Bill can be and why everyone and not just the pirating types should be concerned about it.

In plain terms this means that if you stream your game play to show your friends and it’s viewed by 1 or more friends ten times or less, you could go to jail for up to five years. Yeah, really.

Everyone is at risk. The vagueness regarding value leaves it to copyright holders to determine the possible costs to them. If they want to prosecute through that loophole, they can. A child playing piano of their favorite performer on YouTube, a video of a child dancing to their favorite songs and video game players showing off walk-throughs, speed trials and live streaming their games are all examples of items that’d be prosecutable under this legislation.

Game Politics Contributing Editor and Maryland intellectual property attorney Daniel Rosenthal has a new editorial up on the subject, which examines the bill in greater detail. He too feels that the broad and vague description in the bill could potentially cause quite a few issues for a number of people. In one example he details how streaming a game video could add up to big trouble for a person with little effort from a publisher that decided to push the issue.

"If even 100 people watch a stream of a game (not unreasonable even for an amateur these days), and the court determines that the fair market value of a license is $50 (again, not unreasonable, given that the supposedly infringing content is the game itself being rebroadcast in video form), the economic burden is more than met. Enjoy your felony conviction and 5+ years in prison."

It's unlikely that game publishers would push the issue given that viral marketing is a big part of getting the name of their games out. But what would happen if a publisher disagreed with a bad review that contained images or even video of the game? What if a player posts a YouTube video offering their less than favorable thoughts on a game with supporting video? It certainly leaves something to think about.



Game Politics Expert Analysis: Bill S.978

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

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Stacy "Martuk" Jones was a long-time news editor and community manager for many of our previous game sites, such as Age of Conan. Stacy has since moved on to become a masked super hero, battling demons in another dimension.