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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: This works for me
By Beenthere on 6/17/2011 6:08:52 PM , Rating: 1
There are no "freedoms" being lost by punishing perople for violation of copyright laws, hacking, etc.

I am fully aware that many politicians are scumbags and should be hung by their thumbs for a couple months... but the reason copyright laws exist is to protect intellectual property. People who chose to violate copyright laws deserve to be heavily fined and spend years in prison because they know full well they are violating law and they simply do not care. Perhaps some of the scumbag politicians can be their cellmates?

Any way you slice it, it's criminal to pirate, illegally distribute copyright protected works, facilitate piracy and hacking. Sending these people to prison is a good thing for society. It creates jobs in America building new prisons, maintaining the inmates and facilities and gets scum off the streets who think they are above the law.

It's a win-win situation. And for those he keep yelling that the punishment should fit the crime, I agree. A minimum of 5 years in prison and $10K fine for every copy should be the minimum. Punishment is meant to be a deterrent. In some countries they cut people's hands and legs off for stealing. Punishment is not suppose to be a slap on the wrist. Prison time is meant to get thru to a person in serious denial.


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