Hoping to draw attention to its copyright crusade, U.S. website throws Justin Bieber in (Photoshopped) jail
In a genius bit of appropriation, a website petitioning the U.S. government over a proposed copyright bill is using Justin Bieber to support its cause (semi-ironically, and without his consent). Freebieber.org was set up to oppose the Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S.978), currently in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would make the streaming of copyrighted work punishable by five years in prison. Not only does using the singer’s name make for ideal search engine optimization (the site’s petition has by more than a half a million signatures), but the website—which features Photoshopped images of the Biebs behind bars—makes the case that this legislation deems illegal the very activities that brought Bieber to the world.
As the origin myth of Bieber goes, the Stratford native got his showbiz break after posting performances of cover songs on YouTube. The group behind freebieber.org, Fight for the Future, claims the singer’s videos would be considered illegal under the new bill—indeed, they argue the language of the bill is so broad it could even outlaw singing a song, dancing to background music or posting a video of a school play. One reason to be skeptical of that claim: Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons, who introduced the bill, argue it’s only meant to target websites that are profiting from illegally streaming copyrighted material. And another: IP attorney Terry Hart argues that “someone who uploads a video to YouTube is not performing the video—YouTube is,” meaning individuals will often be exempt under the bill. And of course there’s the fact that Bieber wasn’t a U.S. resident when the videos were posted. Frankly, the whole thing stinks of the Napster-era intellectual property debates, with Bieber stuck in the role of Sean Parker, a sort of latter-day poster boy for potential copyright infringers everywhere.