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Justin Bieber Says Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) Should Be “put away in cuffs” for Her Sponsorship of Extreme Copyright Bill

OCTOBER 28, 2011
CONTACT: Holmes Wilson – press@fightforthefuture.org – 508-474-5248

In an interview this morning on Washington DC Hot 99.5 Radio, Justin Bieber affirmed that Internet users should have the right to reuse and remix music on YouTube and said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) should be “put away in cuffs” for sponsoring a bill that would make posting copyrighted clips a felony.

Bieber made several comments during the radio appearance regarding the proposed legislation, co-sponsored by Klobuchar, “Whoever she is, she needs to know that I’m saying she needs to be locked up — put away in cuffs.”  He added, “People need to have the freedom…people need to be able to sing songs. I just think that’s ridiculous.”

And finally, when asked if he is comfortable with people posting videos singing his songs, he replied, “Are you kidding me?  I check YouTube all the time and watch people singing my songs.  I think it’s awesome.”

Audio from the radio show is available here – http://bit.ly/uJZwkS

Bieber’s comments came in response to the Free Bieber campaign against the proposed bill (http://www.freebieber.org).  S. 978 and its house version the “Stop Online Piracy Act” would make streaming copyrighted work a felony with a 5 year jail sentence.  Because of copyright’s breadth, cover songs, short clips, and even incidental background music could qualify users for felony charges.

Senator Klobochar and other politicians who have introduced the bill in the Senate and House on behalf of the copyright industry, have claimed that the bill would not affect people who post songs on YouTube, as Justin Bieber himself has done.  However, copyright experts who have reviewed the legislation, disagree.

“Unless an individual has a good faith reasonable belief that his streaming is lawful,” says intellectual property lawyer Jonathan Band, “he arguably is willfully infringing, and is subject to felony penalties, even if he had no commercial purpose.”  (Contact information for Jonathan Band is below.)

As S.978 co-sponsor Chris Coons (D-DE) has put it, the legislation would criminalize both “individuals and sites providing the streamed content.”

On SOPA, “imposes criminal penalties for public performances by means of digital networks with a retail value of more than $1,000.  Felony penalties will be available if the retail value is more than $2,500.  So, it sweeps in non-commercial streaming… unless an individual has a good faith reasonable belief that his streaming is lawful, he arguably is willfully infringing, and is subject to felony penalties, even if he had no commercial purpose”

Said Lateef Mtima, director Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice at the Howard University School of Law says, “Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the Bill is that the conduct it would criminalize  is so poorly defined. While on its face the bill seems to attempt to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial conduct, purportedly criminalizing the former and permitting the latter, in actuality the bill not only fails to accomplish this but because of its lack of concrete definitions, it potentially  criminalizes conduct that is currently permitted under the law.”

The Senate version requires that a video has more than “10 performances”, which legal experts say is equivalent to “views”.  In the House version, only 1 view is required.  In the House version, the market value of licensing the work only needs to be $1,000 (a merely nominal licensing fee for any popular music) or greater to qualify as a criminal offense.

EXPERTS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS

Wendy Seltzer
Yale Law School’s Information Society Project
Former Staff Attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation
wendy@seltzer.org

Jonathan Band
voice: 202-296-5675
fax: 202-872-0884
email: jband@policybandwidth.com
web: www.policybandwidth.com

Lateef Mtima and Steven D. Jamar
The Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice
Howard University School of Law
phone: 202-806-8012
email: lmtimallmtima@aol.com
stevenjamar@gmail.com

ADDITIONAL QUOTES FROM EXPERTS

Jonathan Band

“Streaming section is much, much broader than the Klobuchar bill.  In essence, the Klobuchar bill allowed felony (as opposed to just misdemeanor) penalties for a public performance for commercial advantage or private financial gain.  However, the Klobuchar bill left the status quo of no criminal penalties for public performances without purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.

SOPA makes the same amendment as Klobuchar for commercial performances.  But, it also imposes criminal penalties for public performances by means of digital networks with a retail value of more than $1,000.  Felony penalties will be available if the retail value is more than $2,500.  So, it sweeps in non-commercial streaming.  Additionally, as I mentioned on the phone, the bill by implication lowers the standard of willfulness.  Thus, unless an individual has a good faith reasonable belief that his streaming is lawful, he arguably is willfully infringing, and is subject to felony penalties, even if he had no commercial purpose.”

Lateef Mtima and Steven D. Jamar (quoted from joint email)

“Proposed Bill S 978 is rife with critical deficiencies particularly with respect to its impact on the public’s interest in using and building upon copyrighted material.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the Bill is that the conduct it would criminalize  is so poorly defined. While on its face the bill seems to attempt to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial conduct, purportedly criminalizing the former and permitting the latter, in actuality the Bill not only fails to accomplish this but because of its lack of concrete definitions, it potentially  criminalizes conduct that is currently permitted under the law.

For example, the bill does not provide a clear and practical definition of “commercial” conduct. Would streaming or posting conduct by a non-profit organization which accepts donations through its website be considered “commercial” under the Bill? And what constitutes a public performance? If you sing a copyrighted work in front of your fireplace, videotape it, and then post the video on the Internet, have you turned your private performance in to a public one? These questions are currently the subject of debate and disagreement in the courts and thus to pretend that these labels provide clear guidance as to what conduct would be permissible under the Bill is at best naïve. And naiveté is little comfort when the penalty for a misstep is prison.

But there is a deeper, more fundamental flaw in the Bill. It perpetuates the thinking that supports the one-sided perspective of copyright in the digital age held by some corporate rights holders, as opposed to embracing the ecumenical perspectives of all copyright stakeholders, including users, the public at large, and those who would create new works from pre-existing material. From the most narrow rights-holder perspective, quibbling over undefined grey areas in the fight against “piracy” is counterproductive and unnecessary. Essentially they argue “trust us.” Just pass the law and trust us to enforce it judiciously. We don’t intend to go after protesters, town criers, and everyday people hoping to get picked for American Idol. So give us the power to decide when the threat of imprisonment is appropriate and then trust us to use that power objectively, never to be influenced by present business models or perceived profit potential, and always with the public interest in promoting the arts and sciences as our foremost goal.

Of course if you’re a a member of the general public who uses copyrighted material, clear guidelines as to when one risks imprisonment for using copyrighted works is more than just a quibble. And not only will the vague language of the Bill extend to some conduct that is not currently criminal, it will curtail some conduct that is actually permitted under the law. Where there is reasonable doubt as to whether you could go to prison for your Internet activities, inevitably there will be unreasonable and socially undesirable self-censorship.  In First Amendment terms, there will be a chilling effect on expression and creation of new works and the proper and lawful use of existing works.

Rather than continue to embrace an adversarial view of copyright in the digital information age, promoting a de-facto zero sum contest which continues to pit rights holders against the using public, it is past time that we moved beyond this socially unproductive stalemate and instead pursue the idea that public use of copyrighted material can productively co-exist with rights holder property interests. Instead of implementing measures that would outlaw and even criminalize virtually all unsanctioned use of copyrighted material, the earmarking of genuine safe harbors for private digital use of copyrighted works should finally be seriously explored. If the brazen, “copyright gangsters” are truly the targets of enhanced intellectual property enforcement, the best way to get such violators in our sights is to get the innocent bystanders out of harm’s way.”

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