July 8, 2011

Video Game Walkthroughs, Live Streaming and Machinima Could Soon be Felony Offenses

Do you record your video gameplay and upload it to the internet? Do you create or watch video game walkthroughs, reviews, "Let's Play" videos, speedruns or machinima on YouTube? Do you broadcast your gameplay or tune in to other gamers' livestreams? If so, then you need to be aware of a bill now making its way through the American legal system that would make streaming gaming videos a felony punishable by a hefty fine or even jail time.

The aim of this law, Senate bill S.978, is ostensibly to punish those who illegally upload music, movies and television shows. However, it also inadvertently targets gamers who share gameplay video online, since it does not distinguish between different types and uses of copyrighted content. As the bill is now written, someone who uploaded a video walkthrough or a karaoke performance of a copyrighted song would essentially be subject to the same penalties as someone who streamed a pirated movie online.

davidr64yt has made a great, easy-to-follow video explaining this issue.

As he says, this bill is not intended to penalize gamers, only to protect content creators, but through careless wording it goes farther than it probably should. "The people who have written this bill simply don't understand the internet and what we're doing on it. I agree that in the case of TV, film and music, streaming and uploading stuff to YouTube is a bad thing and it hurts those industries. In the case of video games, we 'let's-players' and viewers are a big part of fueling the growth of our industry. ...[We essentially provide] free and powerful advertising."

If you agree with this and think that punishing gamers for sharing video online is a bad idea, I encourage you to speak out. Contact your senators and representatives directly or just take a few seconds to sign this petition opposing bill S.978:

I also encourage you to post a comment on this important issue below or come and talk about it with fellow gamers on our Facebook page.

For more information, visit these links:

Under S.978, I'm a criminal and could spend 5 years in jail for teaching people how to do an adrenaline dodge and headshot.

Special thanks to Nathan E. for bringing this issue to my attention.


  1. Will this affect TRLE and TRLE videos?

  2. That I don't know. In theory it shouldn't, but the cynic in me would not be surprised if level editor creators and players had to spend some time explaining that to YouTube and having blocked videos reinstated.

  3. Signed the petition yesterday. The implications of this whole thing are a bit ridiculous. This is a hobby we all love, and some of us like to help out our fellow gamers with a little demo of how it's done. And the government would rather pass some blanket bill that would condemn us rather than take a moment to glance at the truth of the matter? Hello...

  4. Signed the petition. This is really unfair..

  5. I think that once the political people get the right push, they'll reword it.

  6. Hey Stella, I look at TR videos on YouTube all the time & you're videos too. It's been helpful having the videos as well as it being interesting to see how other TR players play!!!

  7. Klobuchar is my senator, and I'll get to work on this right away (she has a good office that responds to constituents).

  8. That's great, Gary. Thanks for taking action.

    I think the spirit of this law is commendable. Nobody (except criminals) wants to see artists, writers and other creative people being ripped off. The problem is the unintended fallout that the letter of the law seems to imply. Hopefully it will be amended before it's voted on.