A bill that targets unauthorized streaming of movies and TV shows could have a detrimental effect on a vibrant part of video game culture.
Under U.S. Senate Bill S.978, streaming copyrighted material before audiences of 10 or more would become a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The Entertainment Consumers Association warns that the bill inadvertently targets people who stream playthroughs or walkthroughs of video games.
To get a sense of gaming’s video playthough culture, run a search for “Let’s Play” on YouTube. At present, there are more than 500,000 results. A search for “video game walkthrough” returns more than 600,000 results. A search for “speed run” returns more than 250,000 results. The Senate bill would leave all the users who posted those videos open to prosecution. The ECA calls the measure “draconian” and is helping gamers write letters of opposition to their senators.
It’s not clear where the games industry stands on the bill. Hal Halpin, founder and president of the ECA, told Destructoid that he doesn’t see any support among publishers or developers, but the Copyright Alliance, which includes the games industry’s Entertainment Software Association, endorses the bill. So does the Entertainment Merchants Association, which includes movie and video game retailers. Capcom has indicated that it’ll try to support walkthroughs and playthroughs if the bill passes, but I don’t see any major publishers decrying the bill outright.
The games industry may benefit from an anti-streaming law because it would give publishers more muscle to stomp out leaked pre-release game footage or spoiled plot elements. But anyone who plays video games knows that no amount of footage can replace the experience of playing a game. The benefits of these extra copyright protections don’t outweigh the risk of alienating devoted players. If the bill passes, the Entertainment Software Association should, at least, publicly state that it’s not interested in targeting these people.