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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: What about this scenario...
By fic2 on 6/17/2011 11:17:26 AM , Rating: 2
Did you read the article or just the headline?

This is for site operators only.


RE: What about this scenario...
By SublimeSimplicity on 6/17/2011 11:48:55 AM , Rating: 2
I looked at the link to the bill, didn't read the article the whole way, but from the article:
quote:
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.


"Streaming" and "profit" are ambiguous. Streaming could mean sending or receiving. Like the article said profit can be derived from cost cutting. So a judge/jury/prosecutor could interpret the law to include those ABC viewers in my example.

We've all seen how the RIAA / MPAA operate. Its the threat of prosecution to extort money, not actual prosecution.


RE: What about this scenario...
By PitViper007 on 6/17/2011 4:46:12 PM , Rating: 2
From your original post:
quote:
Provided you could prove it, could each member in each household be put away for 5 years if they had the TV on ABC?

I think not. The viewers in this case are using a service that they'd paid for (digital cable) or is freely available (OTA digital TV signal) and so have a right to access. They are not responsible for what a hacker has done to the service they've now accessed. As in many cases of criminal law (I can't believe this may come under that heading now) it would come down to the intent.


RE: What about this scenario...
By Solandri on 6/18/2011 6:16:38 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
This is for site operators only.

The copyright laws currently being used to sue individuals for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per infringement were originally intended to be used against commercial infringers, like people who sold bootleg CDs. If this gets passed, and the wording is vague enough to allow prosecution of people streaming video services they subscribe to to devices they own, the broadcast companies will be all over it to shut down Slingbox, SiliconDust, etc.


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