New Bill Would Criminalize Illegal TV Show Streaming
Currently, felony status only applies to uploads and downloads
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/12/2011 5:48:14 PM
The bill (S. 978) was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and came the same day that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.) re-introduced a bipartisan bill to give the government more tools to shut down Web sites that traffic in stolen intellectual property, including TV shows and movies.
It is already a felony to download or upload that content, so the bill would just extend that to streaming a recommendation made by White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, The Copyright Alliance pointed out in praising the move.
In March, the Obama administration recommended that Congress clarify that streaming illegal content, in addition to downloading it, can be a felony.
Espinel pointed out at that time that, under existing law, it is unclear that streaming copyrighted work can be subject to a felony penalties because such penalties are "predicated on the defendant either illegally reproducing or distributing the copyrighted work." While, intuitively, streaming would seem to pretty clearly be distribution, there has been some legal question about that designation."
Klobuchar and company are looking to clear up that point.
The same groups, unions, studios, independent producers, who were praising the Leahy bill lined up to salute the Klobuchar legislation.
"While illegal downloading of our members' creative works remains the best known method of Internet theft, illegal Internet streaming has actually become the preferred viewing and listening experience," said a AFTRA, SAG and others in a joint statement." Unfortunately, the law has not kept pace with these new consumer habits. While illegal downloading and distribution is a felony, the illegal, willful, and commercial streaming of films, TV programs, and music remains only a misdemeanor. [W]e applaud [the] Senators for their leadership in today introducing legislation to remove unwarranted obstacles to the prosecution of websites that willfully and illegally stream valuable copyrighted works for commercial advantage or private financial gain."
"The illegal streaming of copyrighted content is a scourge on the independent film and television community, particularly the small and medium-sized businesses without the resources to effectively enforce their intellectual property rights," said Jean Prewitt, president of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. "We strongly believe government enforcement and consequences are the only effective remedies for these types of illegal activities. We highly commend Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for this significant legislative proposal to ensure illegal streaming is treated as seriously under the law as is illegal downloading."
The Obama administration has made protection, security and privacy of online content a priority given its push for universal broadband as a critical infrastructure component of the country's future.
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