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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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RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By Uncle on 6/17/2011 12:07:00 PM , Rating: 2
Last time I checked the laws were still on the books. I've said this many a times, another name for lobbying is INFLUENCE PEDDLING, which is against the law. The politicians renamed it to lobbying, added some rules that a truck can illegally drive through. This is the reason were in the mess we are.
I disagree with your statement"that lobbying should be allowed so that companies can state their cases to the government,", This is no different then the "Black tie Affairs" whereby you pay $2500 to get in to rub elbows with who ever to help influence his thinking. The average person can't afford to go and most politicians haven't got the time of day to see their average voters.

By Reclaimer77 on 6/17/2011 12:15:07 PM , Rating: 3
LOL you're really THAT naive aren't you?

Ok so make lobbying illegal. Fine. Who's going to ENFORCE that law? Civilians? Or do you actually believe some Government enforcement division is going to come down on the hand that feeds it? Their just a part of the same chain of power, greed, and control!

I think you guys are kidding yourself if you think anything will change. These people can literally do WHATEVER they want. Our Countries most sacred and binding document of law, the Constitution, is raped on a daily basis. Laws are broken by politicians and they are completely cavalier about it, why? Because they know those laws don't apply to them. They are part of the "Ruling Class".

RE: They need to take the money out of lobbying.
By Motoman on 6/17/2011 2:43:15 PM , Rating: 2
Then you make lobbying illegal and you start putting them all in jail.

After a while, either the rest of them get the hint, or they all wind up in jail. Then you elect new people to office who saw what happened to the last batch.

By Reclaimer77 on 6/17/2011 4:03:38 PM , Rating: 2
Then you make lobbying illegal and you start putting them all in jail.

Who? Who's going to do that? When is the last time you heard of a politician going to jail? They break laws, believe me.

By EricMartello on 6/17/2011 2:45:29 PM , Rating: 3
Then it's time to take up arms and remind the "ruling class" that they are vastly outnumbered by the "non-ruling class". The constitution says we have a duty and responsibility to overthrow any government who ceases to serve the interests of its people. Laws like this serve no persons' interest.

By BailoutBenny on 6/17/2011 4:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
The constitution doesn't say that. The declaration of independence does, though. If you think about the "duty to overthrow a government that does not serve the interests of its people" a little more, you will realize why anarchists have been right the whole time.

By EricMartello on 6/18/2011 5:55:49 PM , Rating: 2
Well it should be in the constitution, but the Declaration of Independence is just as relevant of a document to the fundamentals of the USA.

I don't think anarchism is a good solution, partly because it isn't even clear what anarchism really means, but I do support a drastic reduction of the US Government and a much tighter leash on its power...both at the federal and state levels.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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