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Senate committee votes to make illegal streaming a felony

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The US Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to make illegal streaming of movie and television shows a felony offense, in most instances, reports The Hollywood Reporter. The motion will now move to the Senate for a full vote in order to complete the action.

Individuals should not worry about this bill too much, as it is primarily targeted at streaming “for commercial purposes” only. Those caught streaming copyrighted content illegally 10 or more times during a 180-day period could serve up to five years in prison. The retail value of the content must also exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must exceed $5,0000.

Put forth by 12 Senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Commercial Felony and Streaming Act (S. 978), the bill is an attempt to close a consistency gap between the laws governing streaming versus those concerning peer-to-peer downloading.

“This isn’t about individuals or families streaming movies at home,” said Sen. Klobuchar in an email to Bloomberg. “It’s about criminals streaming thousands of dollars worth of stolen digital content and profiting from it.”

Not surprisingly the bill has massive support among the big cheeses in the entertainment and movie industry, including  the Motion Picture Association of America  Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). The Obama administration has also voiced support for the bill, “in appropriate circumstances,” as has the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), AFTRA and other organizations.

“To the technicians, designers, construction workers, and artists who support their families through their work in entertainment, there’s no difference between illegal downloading and illegal streaming – it’s all theft that hurts their work, their wages and their benefits,” said National Association of Theatre Owners President John Fithian in a statement.

As of 2008, piracy of movies, music and software reportedly cost these industries between $30 billion and $75 billion.