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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 StanO360 on 6/17/2011 12:21:31 PM , Rating: -1
Keep in mind that often lobbyist match the beliefs and interest of the politicians constituents, so supporting their campaign makes sense.

Lobbying is free speech. Instead have term limits, get rid of all of the pensions and free health care. I'm tired of seeing political office as a path to wealth. I actually like it when the rich run for office. They don't need the money and don't need to be there, they have to want to be there.

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.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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