Streaming heading toward felony status


Illegal streaming that is – the kind where the streamer is delivering copyright material without authorization and without paying royalties. A bill to make copyright infringing streaming an act that could send someone to prison has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.

S. 978, sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D-DE) would criminalize repeated copyright infringement by people streaming music, TV shows, movies and other copyright works.

As spelled out in the bill, a prison term of up to five years could be handed down for conviction of streaming 10 or more performances within a 180-day period, provided the economic value to the copyright holder is $2,500 or more – or that the fair market value of a license to deliver those works would exceed $5,000.

“We commend the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing S. 978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, out of committee.  This marks the second time in three weeks that the Senate Judiciary Committee has taken decisive action to approve legislation that can make a significant difference in fighting the scourge of online content theft,” said a joint statement by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

“We congratulate Senator Klobuchar, Senator Cornyn and Senator Coons, who introduced the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, for recognizing that digital content theft via streaming is just as illegal as digital content theft via downloading, and for leading the charge to apply the same criminal penalties to illegal streaming that already apply to illegal downloading,” the unions added.

RBR-TVBR observation: No one really believes that federal prosecutors would be anxious to fill the prisons with people streaming from their homes, but the threat of jail time would certainly help dissuade copyright infringers who are caught at it from resuming their illegal streaming.