Lawmakers Pushing Bill That Could Land YouTube Lip-Synch Artists Behind Bars

Record labels are clamoring for a chance to have their artist lip-synch alongside 16-year-old YouTube sensation Keenan Cahill in, of all places, his bedroom.

But could a proposed amendment to the federal copyright infringement law potentially land Cahill, or any person lip-synching copyrighted material in a YouTube video, behind bars?

Senate Bill 978, a bipartisan measure introduced last month by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), is backed by supporters who say it closes glaring loopholes in current copyright infringement law created by the realities of the digital age.

“As technology rapidly evolves, our laws must be updated to protect creativity and innovation,” said a statement by Cornyn.

But critics say a section of the bill provides for steep penalties — up to five years in prison — for “publicly performing” copyrighted material and embedding the video to sites like YouTube.

“It seems like (the bill) is attacking the core of the Internet itself, which is to promote communication amongst people all over the world,” said Hemanshu “Hemu” Nigam, a former White House counsel for online protection and the founder of the online safety advisory firm SSP Blue.

Cahill’s manager, David Graham, said record labels have contacted the teen in an effort to use the material in his YouTube videos. But what about the average person who lip-synchs and plays a copyrighted song in the background of their YouTube video who doesn’t receive permission from a record label?

Nigam said something as simple as a school recital could expose students and anyone else who participated in the potential copyright violation to prosecution.

“The questions you’re going to have to ask are do you prosecute the school for hosting the event? The parent for videotaping it and posting it on their Facebook? Or the child for actually using the Lady Gaga song and performing it in front of all her loved ones?”

But the bill’s supporters say that’s not going to happen.

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