Anonymous threatens Congress over copyright bill

Hackers from the group Anonymous released a video on the Web this week in which the collective calls out Congress for a controversial new bill that could put Internet users in prison for streaming videos online.

Should S.978 be put on the books, streaming copyrighted material on the Web could land a person in jail for up to five years in addition to costing thousands of dollars in fines. The video released from Anonymous specifically challenges how the law would punish video game users for sharing their own game play on the Web, which the hackers say is a form of censorship and a denial of the free flow of information.

Anonymous also notes that even providing a link to copyrighted content could cause users to wind up with legal woes and says that the legislation is a “tyrannical scheme” courtesy of Congress. The bill was introduced to the Senate in May of this year but has not made it to the voting room floor yet. The official description for S. 978 reads that the bill is being brought before lawmakers “To amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes.”

Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of the bill, and she says that the legislation is not as harsh as weary Web users seem to think. "The bill is not intended nor does it allow law enforcement to prosecute people who may stream videos and other copyrighted works to their friends without intending to profit from the work of the copyright owner," Klobuchar said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in June. "It also does not allow prosecutors to go after individuals that innocently post links on their blogs to copyrighted protected works."

It could, however, cause felony charges if lawmakers seem to think that sharing content causes the copyright owner to miss out on money they could be making.

Anonymous hackers in Germany have already gone after authorities overseas for similar acts they consider censorship. On Monday Anonymous disabled the website of GEMA, a German watchdog that keeps an eye open for infringement of copyrighted music. Earlier this year hacktivists launched a denial-of-service attack on their site.

Congress isn’t exactly a new target for Anonymous either. In the past, hacktivists associated with the collective infiltrated the websites for the US Senate. Recently the group also targeted the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco over murders carried out by transit cops.