Streaming copyrighted content over the 'net may soon be a felony, complete with hefty fines and prison terms for offenders.
While it is currently a felony to share films or TV shows via bit torrent, the current set of laws has no explicit ban on streaming such content. The US Senate Judiciary Committee is hoping that the Commercial Felony Streaming Act can change all that.
The Act seeks to amend current copyright law to include a prohibition on streaming. If successful, those found guilty of violating copyright with illegally streamed content could face up to 5 years in prison.
In a surprisingly understanding move, the prospective law seems specifically designed to only punish habitual offenders. An "offense consists of 10 or more public performances by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copyrighted works," the bill states. Additionally, the Motion Picture Association of America states that those who "stream videos without intending to profit" will not be prosecuted under the newly amended law.
Likely because shouting "whoopee" from the top of Mulholland would seem a bit unhinged, a collection of key entertainment industry interest groups (including the Screen Actors Guild and the Director's Guild of America) issued a joint statement on the bill:
Make no mistake: the illegal streaming of content for commercial or financial gain is a crime, and the Commercial Felony Streaming Act places the appropriate criminal label on the activity. This legislation is an important step forward in our efforts to stem the rising tide of Internet theft that threatens our members' very livelihoods.
The bill still has to pass through scrutiny by the Obama administration before being signed into law, but given the President's notoriously pro-copyright history, that shouldn't prove difficult. As cnet points out, the Obama White House issued a 20-page white paper calling for stricter copyright law only four months ago.
Normally I take a rather libertine stance on the subject of copyright violation, but I really can't see anything here that lends itself to incredulous scoffs and rallying cries to overthrow the government. If downloading Game of Thrones episodes is a felony, it's only logical that spending an hour basking in the awesomeness that is Peter Dinklage via an illegal Internet stream would carry the same penalty.
Note: The above is not rhetorical. I am actively calling for your opinions on the convoluted issue of copyright law (and incidentally your revenue-enhancing page views). The comments section is below, so go to it my little dollar signs!