Internet Video Producers Set To Face 5 Years Imprisonment

The Internet video production world has been buzzing lately over the controversial S.987 Bill over in America, which aims to make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material for the purpose of “commercial advantage or personal financial gain”, a felony.  

Could It Be True?

On the face of it, it appears as though the US Government is cracking down on illegal videos and pirate activity, which is great. Although, when you think about it, there are actually plenty of Internet users making Internet video content for a small profit margin, and using it to sell merchandise, products and services, which could put all such users under that ‘felony’ category. 

Understandably, Internet users and Internet marketers alike are very uneasy about the Bill being introduced. Not only could it close down thousands, if not millions of Internet Channels, but users falling into this illegal category could be looking at 5 years imprisonment as a result. 

So, how do you keep yourself from being thrown into the big house? How can you stay on the right side of the law? The following article explores the best ways to create legal Internet videos and tackles the truth behind Bill S.987.

Archived Footage

The safest way to dodge the implications of Bill S.987 is to make use of archived footage. Archived footage is stored stock footage that is fair to use for anyone. With archived footage you can find particular scenes and film segments to benefit your video without having to using any scenes from copyrighted materials. Traditionally archived footage is most common in the filmmaking world, but perhaps now more than ever such footage has become a literal get out of jail card for Internet users.

Archived footage will come at a small price, and you may have to spend a few extra pennies to ensure your footage is converted into the right format for you to use, but it’s far more beneficial than 5 years behind bars.

Here’s a quick checklist for dealing with archived footage:

Check your archive; you’ll always want to make sure the style/type of footage you want is actually available before you commit to purchasing any footage.

Choose the right format; changing the format of a clip will cost you money, so ensure you get footage in the right format for your video.

Negotiation; never underestimate the power of negotiation when it comes to getting hold of footage. You may just be able to save yourself a few bucks.

Beware of extra archival costs; when you’re dealing with archived footage there could be all sorts of extra costs from format changes, to handling costs. Make sure you’re fully aware of how much budget you have to spend on footage and calculate how much obtaining the footage will cost.

Get clearance for use and distribution; depending on where you’ll be using your archived footage and where you’re distributing it, you may need to gain clearance from certain governing bodies, companies or individuals. Be sure to get the all clear from the necessary people before you start showing your video content on the Internet.

Music Library

The biggest issue with Bill S.987 is that it involves copyrighted music. This could mean purposefully using a copyrighted soundtrack in your Internet video, or simply having the sound of a song playing on the radio, accidentally creep into your video as you walk about town. Luckily, there’s a way to get good quality music without breaking the law.

Just like with film footage, there are libraries full of fair use music available for all Internet users, Internet markets and filmmakers alike. As with archived footage music libraries will charge you a fee for the use of the tracks, but such fees are largely categorised in price in relation to the intended use for the track. For instance using a track for personal use will only cost a few pennies, but using a track for an Internet TV ad will cost you anything from £100 to £200.

Surprisingly music libraries are an incredibly underused asset, which is bizarre given that the majority of music libraries have thousands upon thousands of fair use tracks for you to choose from. You can get literally any style of music imaginable from tracks titled “Male yodel Swiss Polka featuring an accordion and, pleasingly, a cow” to “Emotionally charged liquid drum ‘n’ bass with anthemic electric guitars” or perhaps your video will benefit more from an “Orchestral underworld march building with menacing choir” feel. 

Whatever music you need, using libraries is the best way to go. Not only do they provide a whole host of fitting accompaniments for your video footage, but they are also ‘pleasingly’ legal. 

Myth Busting S.987

Unfortunately with so many styles of Internet video out there from gaming tutorials and walkthroughs to live video podcasts, it’s going to be very difficult for users to keep creating stellar video content by using archived footage and library based music alone. Will that mean those users have no choice, but to start preparing for a life behind bars? Let’s take a good hard look at Bill S.987 and see if Internet users and Internet video marketers are really destined for a life of crime.

The Bill deems illegal video streaming as “streaming ten or more times in a 180 day period.” It also states that video content will only be seen as illegal if the value of the illegally streamed material is over $2,500, or if the licensing fees are over $5,000.

Interestingly despite the amount of outcry from gamer sites, YouTube Channel owners, Internet video celebrities and everyday Internet users, the bill doesn’t actually reference such websites or users in its outline. It appears the Internet world may have taken it upon itself to over emphasise the impact of the Bill to grant it some publicity, but in reality those users have by all accounts raised some very fair and potentially realistic points.

What the Bill actually states though is that it will only target websites or people who profit from illegally streaming copyrighted material, which largely sounds like it’s aimed at pirated material. However, as some users have pointed out that ‘target’ could stretch to encompass all sorts of casual or accidental uses of copyrighted material. Therefore it’s worth keeping an eye on how Bill S.987 evolves and whether we are all going to end up in the slammer.


At the moment it is unknown whether the law would be fully enforced and we’ll all be locked up, but if I were you I wouldn’t get swept up in the panic and hype. There’s strong chance the world might see sense and the suggestion of the Bill will fade into the distance. Although if you are already swept away and beginning to feel like the police are going to start knocking down your door, then be sure to start researching fair uses of copyrighted content, and investing in archived video footage and library based music.

Archived footage and music libraries are a great way to go if you want to stay on the safe side of the copyright law, and especially more beneficial to those users wishing to avoid 5 years of wearing the same jumpsuit every day.

About The Author

Andy Havard is a Marketing Executive at Skeleton Productions, a UK based Internet video production company.