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New Law Could Put Streamers In A Serious Bind

A proposed "must pass" spending bill in Congress could mean jail time, or a fine of up to $30,000, for streamers who use copyrighted material, according to Kotaku. This means that creators on Twitch and YouTube who use songs and video clips in their content could be in big trouble for doing so.

According to political news site Protocol, the bill includes three proposals: the CASE Act, the Trademark Modernization Act, and a proposal which would make streaming copyrighted material a felony. The CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement) would allow infringement cases to bypass the federal court system and make it easier for companies to bring up charges against creators who illegally use their content. The Trademark Modernization Act hopes to put a stop to "fraudulent trademark filings" from foreign countries, particularly China. However, as pointed out by Protocol, this proposal would make way for "trademark trolls," who could possibly "make money off of registering trademarks without intending to use them."

A number of groups have stepped forward to protest the bill, including the "Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, the American Library Association, and the Center for Democracy and Technology," said Kotaku. A letter written by the group reads: "We respect Congress's intent to improve our intellectual property system and protect the rights of creators and entrepreneurs. However, certain aspects of this package of bills will have negative impacts on small- and medium-sized businesses, creators, libraries and their patrons, students, teachers, educational institutions, religious institutions, fan communities, internet users, and free expression."

The proposal was brought forward by Republican senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who, according to The American Proposal, has received over $100,000 in contributions from political action committees related to big-name entertainment companies, including Warner Music and NBCUniversal.

Streamers on Twitch have already been affected by copyright laws, thanks to the DMCA cracking down on song usage, causing some creators to be banned even if the music used came from past videos. Now, it appears that not only streamers from Twitch and YouTube will be affected if this proposal passes. The big fear is that anyone on the internet could be in some serious hot water for posting anything online that is owned by copyright, including sharing memes and favorite songs. Katherine Trendacosta of the Electronic Frontier Foundation spoke out against the proposal in 2019 and issued a warning that this proposal "could ruin the lives of regular people; people who are engaging in the things we all do when we're online: sharing memes, sharing videos, and downloading images."

The bill's deadline is set for Dec. 18, an extension from its original Dec. 11 date.