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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 YashBudini on 6/17/2011 1:13:05 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Remember, we are the idiots that put these idiots into office.

You make it sound like we actually have a choice. People stuck on the 2 party bandwagon guarantee we will get scum into office.


RE: Vote.
By Motoman on 6/17/2011 1:53:22 PM , Rating: 1
Right. Which reminds me...we need to outlaw political parties too.

"What?! Then we'd actually have to try to elect people based on their own virtues as individual people!"

Yup.


RE: Vote.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/17/2011 4:10:45 PM , Rating: 2
Outlaw parties? What? Then everyone would just say what the people wanted to hear just to get elected. At least now, with parties, you have some idea of what the person stands for. If for nothing else than the fact that they'll be pressured by their own party to tow the "party line" when it comes time to vote on something.

Without parties we would have to toss out, or rewrite, half the Constitution. How would the built in "checks and balances" to try and balance political power and keep the President and Congress in check work without parties? Hell for that matter, how would the House and Senate even work?

Moto I like you, you have a good head on your shoulders, but just outlawing everything we don't like or think might be a problem seems kind of draconian to me.


RE: Vote.
By BloodSquirrel on 6/20/2011 2:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
Here's the dirty little secret about the two-party system:

All it does is corral whoever the public is willing to vote for into one of the two parties. It doesn't change who gets into politics, it just adds an (R) or a (D) behind their name. If a candidate is electable, then he’ll make his way through one of the two parties and get elected. If somebody can’t get a nomination from one of the two parties, then they never had a chance in the general anyway.

Not only does the public control who get nominated through the primaries, but they control who gets into higher office by electing them to lower office first. You can try to argue that it’s only a minority of people who participate in the primaries, but then whose fault is that?

The two party system is just a scapegoat. It’s people’s voting habits that are to blame. There are better, smarter, more principle trying to get into the system, but they lose out to the people who are better and gaming the public, and it’s nobody but the public’s fault that they didn’t notice that the guy they voted for was promising trillions of dollars in new spending and to balance the budget at the same time


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