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The bill could send you to prison for five years for streaming video 10 times in half a year.  (Source:
Sharing sports games with your friends? You're going to prison for 5 years!

Some accuse the United States federal government of being bought and paid for by the entertainment industry when it comes to copyright law.  Indeed, when Barack Obama was elected president he initially promised to look into copyright reform, but since has focused his efforts almost exclusively on copyright enforcement.  Copyright enforcement is a rare bipartisan-supported issue in Washington D.C. -- arguably because parties such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and their respective member corporations make a point of donating millions to members of both parties.

Given that, the U.S. Senate’s plans to criminalize online streaming of television programming or movies does not particularly surprise.  Dubbed "The Commercial Felony Streaming Act" (S. 978), the bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The bill would aims to "reconcile a disparity" between the current law regarding stream of content with that regarding peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing.  The bill's proposed way to "reconcile" that disparity is to send Americans to prison -- if you're caught streaming 10 times within 180 days, you can be convicted of a felony and sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.

In order for videos to qualify as strikes against an individual, the infringed work must have a retail value of the streamed video that exceeds $2,500, or a license worth more than $5,000.  To qualify the streaming must also be done for "personal financial gain" -- an ambiguous phrasing.

The MPAA claims that it will only target website owners who "willfully and knowingly violated a copyright and profited from it." The organization says it will not look to prosecute those who "stream videos without intending to profit".

However, the organization or other copyright enforcement groups could eventually use the measure to try to prosecute viewers and owners of non-profitable sites as well, as they could argue that individuals see a "personal financial gain" from not purchasing work legally.  

The bill is firmly supported by the Obama administration.  The White House Office of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement urged Congress two months ago to send Americans who stream to prison.  

The effort is also being pushed by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), AFTRA, Directors Guild of America, IATSE, SAG, the MPAA, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, and the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Michael O’Leary, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs for the MPAA lauds, "This bill will help ensure that the punishment for these site operators fits the crime."

And IFTA President Jean Prewitt adds, "The illegal streaming of motion pictures and television programming is as financially devastating for our industry as is illegal downloading. Stealing is stealing, regardless of the means in which the product is being received."

The bill was approved on Thursday by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Some states have recently been pushing to make sharing your Netflix password a misdemeanor offense that carries jail time.  Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) is the world's largest legal vendor of streaming movies.  The bills contain no exemptions for sharing passwords with your family members or roommates.

The U.S. has the world's highest incarceration rate of any country in the world [source; PDF].  It is project that the U.S. spent over $80B USD in tax payer money on imprisoning its citizens in 2010 [source].

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Punish the operators!?
By Shampoo on 6/17/2011 9:54:26 AM , Rating: 2
"This bill will help ensure that the punishment for these site operators fits the crime."

This bill proposes jail time for those that watch illegally streamed movies, or am I reading it wrong and need to go back to English classes?

ESL anyone?

That's a load of crap.
Get them at the source, don't punish people who happen to come across it and have no idea it's illegal content.

Example: OLD PEOPLE or people who aren't too tech savvy.

When they're provided the web address for FREE MOVIES and TV SHOWS, they don't ask; "Hey is this legal?".

They just say, sweet!

RE: Punish the operators!?
By theapparition on 6/17/11, Rating: -1
RE: Punish the operators!?
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/17/2011 12:18:54 PM , Rating: 2
This bill (despite the egregious DT headline) is for site operators who willing stream copyrighted content, and are caught more than 10 times in 6 months doing so. The site operator also must be doing it for profit.

Did you read the bill which I graciously linked (unlike the handful of other stories on the topic?

If you did, you would realize you are wrong. Nowhere in it does it say the word "operator". The offender must "willfully" infringe and do so for "personal financial gain" according to the language of the past bill (Section 506(a) of title 17, United States Code) being modified.

Sure the MPAA says NOW that it will only argue in court that operators are seeing "financial gain". But once it's past what's to stop them from turning around and saying viewers are seeing "personal financial gain" by avoiding legally obtaining the content at cost? Nothing.

That's one of the major problems with the bill -- it uses ambiguous language that makes it arbitrary who can be charged. Do you really trust the MPAA that much to be kind and gentle?

RE: Punish the operators!?
By rrburton on 6/18/2011 7:38:59 AM , Rating: 2
But once it's passed ......

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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