Print 130 comment(s) - last by BloodSquirrel.. on Jun 20 at 2:01 PM

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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RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By Motoman on 6/17/2011 10:06:53 AM , Rating: 4
No, lobbying has to be outlawed entirely if there is ever to be any hope for fairness in governance. There is no concievable way that it can be allowed and not skew politics towards the specific interests of those with the money to pay for lobbyists.

RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By nafhan on 6/17/2011 10:46:37 AM , Rating: 2
I think "outlawing" lobbying would just move it out of the open without otherwise changing a thing. Not sure what the best solution would be, but I have a feeling that would just make things worse - at least right now, we have some idea of who's giving money to who.

RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By Motoman on 6/17/2011 10:50:15 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, but then when you caught a lobbyist, you could send him to jail and the organization who was paying him too.

Do a few of those and you'd be surprised how fast people straighten up.

By AntDX316 on 6/19/2011 5:06:20 AM , Rating: 2

gotta love how the internet full of 0's and 1's makes people go to jail

in the same similar concept of life being molecules and energy makes people go to hell

but same as 0's and 1's makes people extremely happy and molecules and energy makes people extremely happy too

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RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By mcnabney on 6/17/2011 10:52:38 AM , Rating: 5
Fine, move it into the dark alleys.

Then we can throw Congresscritters in JAIL for accepting bribes. That IS what they are.

By MechanicalTechie on 6/19/2011 7:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
For an outside POV, if the American people dont get off their fat arses and do something about the backhands in your politics you can only look forward to the Police state thats already pressing hard on you guys :(

By MrBlastman on 6/17/2011 11:03:45 AM , Rating: 3
Outlawing lobbying is needed, now. It must be stopped at all costs. The problem is, nobody in Congress would ever vote for it...

Take this little fact for instance I heard about yesterday--the average stock returns of Congress versus the rest of America and Insiders. It is eye opening:

and a newer study:

Notice their average levels of return FAR exceeded the general public and at the Senate level, doubled insiders and at the House level, approached it.

Do you see the disparity now? This is damning evidence to say the least. Now do you think Lobbying is bad? This is outrageous to me, to say the least. I work my butt off to make coin honestly--these guys just get inside info and profit with ease.

RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By StanO360 on 6/17/11, Rating: -1
By MrBlastman on 6/17/2011 12:25:55 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with the rich wanting to be there is a lot of the time, they are there to line their pockets through legislation that benefits their businesses...

Term limits though are direly needed.

By The Raven on 6/17/2011 5:40:53 PM , Rating: 2
Term limits though are direly needed.

I know why you would say that but you can't make people interested in politics by annoying them with ads. They only get interested once they know how much the gov't has/will screw them.

What I mean is that they will just go and check R or D on the ballot and go home to catch the end of Celebrity Apprentice. It won't matter if there is a new guy on the ballot. Term limits will just result in more book deals for more former senators. I mean Robert Byrd for example was in office for how long? 17,327 days of "service" (it is not service if it is your means of living in my opinion).

Not to sound so down on Byrd, but his constituents deserve him. If that is what they want, so be it. It shouldn't affect me in MO much since I have my own representatives here. But as the federal gov't grows that is becoming more and more meaningless... uhh... so on second thought maybe we do need term limits ;-)

By superstition on 6/17/2011 10:52:49 PM , Rating: 2
Byrd was highly effective at getting pork for his state as far as I know, so his constituents were pleased.

By Invane on 6/17/2011 12:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
The current form lobbying is in is far closer to legal bribery than any form of free speech. I'm fine with cases being presented. This should be done without large checks and other gifts being attached to the proposals.

If money is allowed to be used to influence decisions, those decisions will be made in such a way as to favor those with money. It's a simple and unfortunate reality.

By 91TTZ on 6/17/2011 3:30:12 PM , Rating: 2
Lobbying is free speech

Lobbying itself is free speech, which is why they should be allowed to lobby. But funneling money to the politicians who make the law is nothing short of a bribe.

By YashBudini on 6/17/2011 7:37:02 PM , Rating: 5
Lobbying is free speech.

Yeah it frees up any chance of an individual citizen being treated fairly, especially when up against a corporation.

By Invane on 6/17/2011 12:35:04 PM , Rating: 3
Very interesting stuff there Blastman. The return on investment these guys make is shocking. I would have expected better than the US average...but not that much better. When they can do better than corporate insiders you know something's not right. I have seen few better indicators of corruption than that data.

By hyvonen on 6/17/2011 3:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
The first link is data presented in a bad way - the time periods don't match. Annualized returns vary widely depending on the time period chosen.

Second link requires subscription.

That said, I completely agree with you that lobbying should be outlawed across the board. Lobbying diminishes the value of voting, as lobbying essentially allows the congress to be bought.

By TSS on 6/17/2011 12:15:21 PM , Rating: 2
Well the problem then lies with the politicians loyalty: Their loyalty is to the money, wether it's secretly or openly given to them.

So that mentality has to be changed, which IMO is practically impossible. I'd think the only way to work with it is to outlaw any other source of income for politicians aside from the pay they recieve from the government and the budget assigned to them by the government for their campaign, which is a set amount of money for all politicians.

Maybe that way you can choose more people for president rather then 1 democrat and 1 republican both pre-selected by the corperations. Maybe then the congress's allegiance will be to the people, since their only way of putting food on the table is to serve the people. Maybe it'll put an end to party politics since people with independant opinions will be heard just as loudly.

Maybe it won't change a damned thing and the USA is set to go down a path of decadence and destruction like other empires before it no matter what happens. Time will tell, but it's pretty obvious to anybody that'll happen for sure if nothing is changed.

By wiz220 on 6/17/2011 12:17:41 PM , Rating: 2
Heh, I don't think there's much of lobbying that's "out in the open" right now. The laws are such that everything can be obfuscated and hidden while still "obeying the law".

By zenom11 on 6/20/2011 9:49:54 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. we need to fix our system. Ban all contribution from organizations/companies. so that there is no way for any organizations/companies to have leverage or political agenda and our reps in DC only work for their constituents and not these lobbyists.

the positions as our reps in DC are just a cover up, they actually have a bigger agenda. and that is bribe money from lobbyists.

By The0ne on 6/17/2011 3:21:07 PM , Rating: 2
No disagreement here. So much for one vote counting :(

By BloodSquirrel on 6/20/2011 1:31:04 PM , Rating: 2
Trying to outlaw lobbying isn't going to do a damn thing as long as people keep sending politicians to Washington based on how much bacon they promise to bring home. Politicians are using the public’s own stupid, lazy, ignorant greed to blind them to the damage they’re doing to this country. All it takes is some free gov’mnt cash waved in front of their faces and nobody will give this kind of legislation a second thought come voting day.

People make a deal with the politicians: I’ll give you what you want, and you deliver the goods, no matter who else it screws. Then they’re actually surprised when politicians turn around and make the same deal with corporations.

No legislation is going to grant morals to the same immoral scumbags that make the legislation. You need to vote for people who have their own morals, and you can’t do that *and* vote for someone who is promising that they’ll funnel everyone else’s money into your personal bank account at the same time.

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