Let’s Play…

(And get 5 years in prison for doing so…)

Seems as though just when one attack on gamers in general is shot down (namely the Supreme Court’s decision that games are protected free speech, thus rendering the Schwarzenegger bill unconstitutional) something else has to come along that might harm gamers.

Like many gamers, I enjoy using video streaming services such as Youtube, Blip, UStream, Justin.TV, and Vimeo. Most of the videos I watch on these services are gaming related. Be it simple video walkthroughs of games, walkthroughs with commentaries (also referred to as "Let’s Play" videos,) independent video reviews, or even machinima videos. A lot of my time on streaming services are gaming related.

In fact, it is these videos that even end up a deciding factor on whether or not I’ll purchase a game, or to see if it’s worthy enough for parody or ridicule.

I even posted a couple videos myself on our Youtube GamerGeeks on Demand page. These videos included raw footage of game glitches (i.e. NASCAR 2011,) special productions (last year’s Hardcore Bowl,) and even live gaming related events (the Rock Band 3 event with members of the That Guy With the Glasses website.) Some of these events were flagged by Youtube for using copyrighted music, but in the end, nothing serious came out of it. In fact, these videos because they are being used for commentary or news coverage of an event, it falls under a protection known simply as "fair use."

I even planned on doing a video review for Duke Nukem Forever, using footage from the game, and that too would be protected under fair use as it’s being done for review or criticism purposes. Normally game companies do not care that game footage is being streamed online. If that weren’t the case I would have more Content ID strikes on my Youtube account than I already have.

But apparently Congress, namely Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN,) wants to think otherwise. With her introduction of bill S.978, she wants to make it a felony to stream copyrighted material. The proposed bill states that it will be a criminal act, punishable by up to five years imprisonment for up to 10 public performances of a copyrighted item via electronic means in a 180 day period, if the total value of the performances is at least $2,500, or if the total market license share of said items is at least $5,000.

The problem is this bill amendment, the way it’s written, is way too vague. I understand the method of protecting intellectual properties, such as streaming movies and television events, but the execution is terrible. By saying this it means that ANY copyrighted work is fair game, and yes that includes games. If the bill continues this way unaltered, there will definitely be a "chilling effect" to everyone online. This could mean no more Let’s Plays, no more walkthroughs, no more independent reviews, no more machinimas, no more anything game related. And yes, this means I will never be able to post my Duke Nukem Forever video review. Thanks Congress!

Maybe I’m overreacting to this bill, but it does feel like it is infringing on our personal freedoms. I always make sure that my videos, when they are posted, are protected under "fair use," but if this bill becomes law, that might not be the case. I would recommend that anyone who likes watching these videos online contact their congressmen and congresswomen to state your opinion. Keep updated with advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Demand Progress, and let them know that you do not want your game videos made illegal.

In the meantime, I will continue to post videos on the GamerGeeks on Demand page…including the upcoming Duke review!

Currently Playing: Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (360/XBLA)

Waiting For: Deus Ex 3 (360)

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