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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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RE: Vote.
By mcnabney on 6/17/2011 10:59:42 AM , Rating: 5
That isn't even a threat.

The districts are so gerrymandered that only a handul of races are actually competitive. The Congressman you wrote could probably send you a letter back say "hah, like I am going somewhere. The district is 80% Republican (or Democratic). I'm not going anywhere. So go cry somewhere else."


RE: Vote.
By ebakke on 6/17/2011 11:04:26 AM , Rating: 2
It's truly depressing how accurate that is.


RE: Vote.
By sprockkets on 6/17/2011 11:20:17 AM , Rating: 2
What was that congressman that committed all those crimes, got convicted, then his only punishment was "censure", and he got re-elected?

That's messed up.


RE: Vote.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/17/2011 12:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
Name's on the tip of my tongue but can't remember.

But hell, he's nothing. Ted Kennedy, hero of the Left, murdered a woman and it was covered up by his family and buried so he could win an election.

Karma must be real. As far as I'm concerned the Kennedy family got what they deserved. When every last one of them dies, the world will be a much better place.


RE: Vote.
By MrBlastman on 6/17/2011 12:04:40 PM , Rating: 2
Charlie Rangel.

Most politicians don't give a crap about their districts. Just look at Harry Reid insulting his constiuents a few years ago in public. They don't care. They know it is rigged in their favor and they make laws that give them immunities.

But, you can only blame the public for not giving a darn enough to take time out of their day to actually learn about their candidates.


RE: Vote.
By ClownPuncher on 6/17/2011 12:23:22 PM , Rating: 2
I like how Charlie Rangel can't even form a coherent sentence or thought, yet basically has the job for life.


RE: Vote.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/17/2011 12:28:01 PM , Rating: 1
Doesn't matter. He's a black Democrat. He could be a mass murderer, but the second you tried removing him from office, the race-baiting Liberals will race-card you until you are cut to shreds.


RE: Vote.
By Motoman on 6/17/11, Rating: 0
"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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