Could A New Law Put Justin Bieber In Jail?

According to opponents of a new bill that would make streaming copyrighted content online a felony, Justin Bieber and anyone else who's ever shared video of themselves covering a song could end up behind bars. However, Selena Gomez can hold off on baking that cake with a file in it. Despite the Photoshopped images of an incarcerated Bieber that are going around the internet, experts say it's extremely unlikely that he would be prosecuted.


Tomorrow the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, or S.978 will be introduced in the House of Representatives, the Washington Post reports. If passed, the legislation would make the streaming of copyrighted work punishable by five years in prison. Most Americans don't follow developments in copyright law, but the issue is getting more attention now that the group Fight the Future has launched their "Free Bieber" campaign. More than half a million people have already signed petitions opposing the bill, thanks in part to a somewhat hilarious slideshow on the organization's website, which features digitally created images of Bieber being hauled away for posting videos of himself covering artists like Chris Brown. In this imaginary narrative Bieber keeps Tweeting even after cops arrive at his door, and predicibly, the police end up with a tween riot on their hands:

Just after 3pm PST, Bieber tweeted "OMG— cops at house, want to arrest the bieb re: those neyo songs PLS RT!!"

By 3:12pm, a now-routine "online singing" arrest had become a tweenage riot. A SWAT team was deployed to extract Bieber from throngs of small but enraged fans.

The site claims, "Other online video 'crimes' could include: videos of a school play, a professional baseball game, or videos with incidental background music (even just a ringtone)." However, Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons, who introduced the bill, say that isn't true. They claim that bill is only mean to target websites or people who are profiting from illegally streaming copyrighted material. Terry Hart, a lawyer who blogs on Copyhype, explains that the senators are right. Somehow under the strange legal definition of the term "performance," "someone who uploads a video to YouTube is not performing the video - YouTube is."

Technically, you're not supposed to distribute someone else's copyrighted work under current laws, but no one has even received a takedown notice for posting a cover of a song on YouTube. Fight the Future's logic may be wrong, but their methods are still impressive. By pasting a few (possibly copyrighted) images of Bieber into jailhouse scenarios, they managed to get hundreds of thousands of people riled up about copyright law. Just imagine the level of voter participation if we had the Bieb dramatize every bill that goes through Congress.

Could S.978 Land Artists Like Justin Bieber In Jail? [Washington Post]
Free Bieber
Justin Bieber Is Not Going To Jail [Copyhype]