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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: Bunch of thieves
By MarioJP on 6/18/2011 1:21:38 PM , Rating: 2
I never knew streaming is illegal. I guess youtube is illegal too right??. Internet radio as well??. Go back to your man cave where you came from. Wow the nerve of some people.


RE: Bunch of thieves
By disgusted@thieves on 6/18/2011 2:53:13 PM , Rating: 2
Really? Why did you even make such an idiotic comment? As I said if you want to put something up on you tube CREATE something and put it up there. If you put up a movie you did not create and do not have the rights to – you are a thief and need to be punished.

I really can't tell if you are this stupid or just trying to be an A$$. If you are this stupid, buckle up – life is going to be rough on you..


RE: Bunch of thieves
By MarioJP on 6/18/2011 7:05:45 PM , Rating: 2
I was not talking about putting your own videos,etc. I am talking just WATCHING a music video or a TV SHOW. If you read closer they want "viewers" to not avoid cable feels or online service fees. This Law is the stepping stone to whats to come. What your friend can't come over to your house to watch a TV show on youtube??. So again I am not talking about just Creating your own Content.


RE: Bunch of thieves
By disgusted@thieves on 6/19/2011 10:09:37 AM , Rating: 2
To quote the article:

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 authors comment on “an ambiguous phrasing” shows his opinion on the bill because there is nothing ambiguous about this. You stream copyrighted work you don't have rights too then you are STEALING. Thieves get punished. This has nothing to do with netflix streaming or internet radio.

All this says is that you can not stream content you don't own. If you can't understand why doing so would be wrong, I don't have the time to teach you the morals your parents failed to teach you.


"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer














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