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The bill could send you to prison for five years for streaming video 10 times in half a year.  (Source: DigitalTrends.com)
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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By 2011tech1 on 6/17/2011 10:45:26 AM , Rating: 3
Why don't we dispense with the term lobbying and call it what it really is. Bribery


By MrBlastman on 6/17/2011 11:25:33 AM , Rating: 2
Because that would be too European. ;)

Sad as it is, Europe is rife with bribery. It is even expected there and it is insulting at the high level businesswise if it is scoffed at.

But yeah, Lobbyists have to go--along with their legalized bribery.


RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By wiz220 on 6/17/2011 12:20:38 PM , Rating: 2
Are you sure you're not thinking of Asia?


By YashBudini on 6/17/2011 1:20:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Are you sure you're not thinking of Asia?

Waste of time trying to pin it down, it's a human problem, ergo global.


By YashBudini on 6/17/2011 12:59:07 PM , Rating: 1
Bribery will be difficult to prove in the short term, because what you have is politicians voting favorably for certain coporations and in return after their term is over they land cushy multi-million consultant jobs at the same firms.

If I had the funding I would research all long gone politicians to see what they are up to, and shortly after showing what they are really doing they would brand me a terrorist (the current witch hunt term)and Faux would go nuts on me. It wouldn't really matter if they are exposed or not, because odds are the statute of limitations would have made them immune to any charges.

Nobody is willing to cut off their own money supply, especially one as profitable as this.


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