Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Congratulations, YouTube Users, You're Viewed As Criminals Now

At first, we were all jovial about the Supreme Court ruling that permits retailers to sell M-rated games to minors, but that's peanuts compared to this next bill...

I'm pretty sure everyone's heard about this US Congress bill S.978 which makes streaming or uploading various types of media (including video games) illegal and worthy of jail time.  The irony that this was discussed on July 4th, America's birthday in which we celebrate the freedoms we have.  Now I don't think this will get passed, but really, do we need more vague regulations as it is?  In a country where you can't even dig a hole or buy a toilet without getting hit in the face with some red tape?

A lot of this article talks about streaming.  I know jack about streaming--I'm mainly focused on uploading YouTube videos.  It's not as if we're already getting our asses kicked by copyright infringement (random vids getting pulled left and right).  Fun fact--I actually did get suspended from YouTube years ago by uploading three short clips from movies/TV: Home Alone 2, Office Space and...the Monster Rancher anime (as if anyone cares about an twenty-second, crappy VHS quality clip of an abandoned anime but alas...someone DOES care).  Funny fact is the Office Space clip was removed because it had the Comedy Central logo in the corner (Viacom is anal about that logo), not because of the actual feature film itself.  I got my account back though--more on that in a sec.

A brief overview if you don't know what we have today: How YouTube works is that companies (particularly Viacom) scroll through videos that they believe have copyright material that belongs to them, marking videos that don't follow Fair Use (though due to the subjective nature at hand, they hardly put thought into it and just mark anything without regard to this) so they send letters to YouTube demanding their removal.  YouTube takes the videos down and gives the uploader a "strike."  Three strikes and the account is "suspended" (a big fat lie since odds are you'll never get it back) and the user is told he can't create any future accounts (something YT rarely ever enforces...many people come back although they have to start from scratch again).

Nowadays, this process is made a bit simpler since YT can auto-detect movie, TV, and music in uploaded vids and immediately correct the situation (though people have found ways to circumvent this--i.e. mirror the media clips so the scanners don't pick it up).  Not only that, but YT doesn't even have to follow the "three strikes" rule--they have to power to kill your account for whatever reason...one strike, that's it, goodbye, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

The reason why YouTube seems to be pulling "dick" maneuvers by suspending accounts left and right is because no one wants to get sued.  YT could get sued if not pulling the cord on these videos so soon.  Consider this a blessing...would you rather lose your YT account or face the wrath of civil courts?  You can actually counter-act videos you think were unfairly removed by e-mailing YT back claiming that the videos in question were actually Fair Use.  If the original copyright owners don't reply in two weeks, you get your video back and a strike removed.  That's what I did although it may just be wiser to avoid the mess and just create a new account and get back on your feet that way.

Of course, I haven't even mentioned getting sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars...don't go around monetizing movies or music that doesn't belong to you.  Simple as that.  Obviously I admit that's bad, but I'm not even talking on that grand of scale here.  Just lame-o YouTube filler.

I'm also aware about music and video piracy (even non-profit) which has always existed...companies have gone nuts shutting down sites like Kazaa and Limewire but the fact is it's like trying to kill a horde of bugs with a fly swatter--there's too many of them.  So companies have to derive new ways to monetize copyrighted material, such as slap on ads to user-uploaded vids to at least save face.  That's how the economy works--you can try to hunt down infringers, but change with the times and find other means to get by, not just pass more bills looking to strike down the very people who you're catering to.  ESPECIALLY those who are barely doing anything illegal such as the little kid singing Lady Gaga in an embarrassingly bad YT clip...

This new bill in the legislative branch is going scorched earth--basically scaring the living daylights out of anyone attempting to upload anything barely copyrighted.  This is from the article above: According to the bill as it’s currently written, if you engage in “public performances by electronic means” 10 or more times over a 180 day period, and if either the total economic value of those performances exceeds $2500 or the cost of getting the copyright holder’s permission to perform exceeds $5000, then you can potentially get fined and put in jail for 5 years.  Jail.  FIVE YEARS.

Think about this--want to get people to stop doing something bad, such as driving over the speed limit?  Hand out tickets?  Doesn't seem to stop many people.  How about subjecting people to life in prison or the death penalty?  Does it get people to stop doing this?  Yes.  Is it ridiculous?  Obviously.

And the main problem I have with the bill is that it's just vague.  Okay, so you upload a short clip from a movie or something.  Considering the companies' habit of marking anything as copyright infringement, what's to stop them from coming up to you, claiming you broke the financial threshold, and getting your ass thrown in jail?

So no new gaming videos?  What for?  Watching video game clips on YouTube and such is not a substitute to obtaining the game and playing it for yourself.  Otherwise, I'd get my gaming fix just by watching Daytona 2 and Scud Race footage but no...I'm still overwhelmingly depressed by games today.  The only time I've seen gaming clips get removed from YT is Grand Theft Auto 4 footage around the time that game was released.  So Rockstar was being picky...okay, but for the most part, go ahead and type in any game in YT and you're bound to find some sort of gameplay footage of it.

And if this bill gets passed, then what's to stop them from punishing people who posted videos previously, such as walkthroughs, tool-assisted runs, speed runs, Let's Play's, and other miscellaneous stuff?  What about anything falling under Fair Use?  So get rid of every user-uploaded video off of YouTube (which has its own category BTW)?  Congrats, that's about a fourth of YT gone there.  Goodbye gaming community.  What's next--prosecute anyone that creates an emulator that plays copyrighted ROMs for free (talking about old stuff like NES or *cough* arcade games)?  Or even worse--come over to my blog and say it's illegal for me to use pictures from video games, particularly Sega racers?  When does this end?

The funny part about this is that some companies don't care.  For instance, Treyarch has implemented means for users to upload Black Ops clips to YouTube from their consoles...so suddenly, uploading Black Ops clips is bad?  Now things get even more dicey because you don't know what copyright material will get you busted and what won't.  But all of a sudden, you get cozy and try to share clips of great games like Daytona USA 2 and that's under fire.  Yeah, imagine that--Sega doesn't give a damn about Daytona USA anymore, but if any fans try to revitalize or enshrine the series, they get their asses kicked.  Geez...

And one more thing.  I read this here from some guy...perhaps this is a sneaky maneuver for some anti-gaming politicians to cut at the knees of video gamers everywhere.  They can't even stop retailers from selling M-rated games to minors so what do they do?  Chip away at the community.  I don't think this is entirely true but it's something to think about.  We are dealing with modern-day politicians here who think they know better than everyone else on how to run our lives...

Anyway, this is just me rambling on about copyrights.  I still don't think this bill will be passed.  Anyway, go here and sign a "petishun"--very easy to do.  The gaming blogs aren't harping on it anymore so maybe this thing's really dead--I don't know.  I'm not saying that we should be able to violate any copyright we want but this bill is just absurd...hunting people down like dogs for uploading clips of stuff that hurts nobody (and spending the taxpayers' money while they're at it).  God bless America...

I hope there is nothing factually incorrect about this post--feel free to correct me since I want to learn too...


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