DALLAS, TX—YouTube viewers have seen the array of videos. A 2-year-old belting out "Baby" by Justin Bieber has gotten about two million views. A 16-year-old boy mouthing the words to a Katy Perry tune has gotten more than 41 million hits. But critics wonder if there could be problems ahead for those people who like to lip-synch copyrighted material and then post it to internet channels like YouTube.
Under Senate Bill 978 authored by Texas Senator John Cornyn, offenders who stream copyrighted content could be sent to prison for five years. The bill would make it a felony to stream copyrighted material. Cornyn has said the upgrade in the law is needed to protect "creativity and innovation."
There seems to be agreement that loopholes in the law need to be fixed.
"Maybe if they are six years old you can't blame them, but if they are 30-year-old musicians trying to make it, there are other ways," said Dallas resident, John Scully.
Critics wonder if this could leave the average lip-synch kid or teen exposed. What about the young girl who performs in a local talent show and then posts the song to YouTube? The record label or artist probably didn't give permission.
"The stated goal of the bill is to go after those who aim to make this a commercial endeavor," said Dallas copyright attorney Dyan House.
House says the casual person who lip-synchs is not the target. She says the digital age has left loopholes in the law that need to be closed to catch those making money by streaming copyrighted content.
"The law doesn't address streaming, it only addresses distribution."
But there could be gray areas. Some "amateurs" who have posted lip-synch material on YouTube have gained a large following that at some point could become profitable. That could make it difficult to determine the difference between innocent imitators and real criminals. The proposal calls for a penalty of up to five years in prison.