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Uploading copyrighted video to YouTube could soon be a felony

YouTube-CopyrightIf you’re considering uploading a movie or TV show to YouTube, go ahead and get it out of your system now, because pretty soon, such an act could land you behind bars with a felony count on your rap sheet — at least if Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) get their way.

According to Ars Technica, the two Senators plan to introduce a bill that would boost the charges for streaming unauthorized content to a full-blown felony. That ingenious suggestion comes via Victoria Espinel, President Obama’s US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (or “IP czar”), who recently laid out the penalty ramp-up as part of her proposed revamp of intellectual property laws.

Current laws dictate that “reproducing” and “distributing” copyrighted content are felony offenses. Streaming, on the other hand, is still considered a “public performance,” which carries lesser consequences. The new bill, currently known as S. 978, would add “public performance” of copyrighted material to the list of felonies.

Anyone who breaks the law — if, in fact, the bill becomes a law — could face up to five years in prison, as well as hefty fines. For such a penalty to apply, however, an illegal uploader must show ten or more illegal “public performances” within 180-day time period. Also, as Ars points out, “the total retail value of those performances  ” must exceed $2,500, or “the cost of licensing such performances” must top $5,000.

As you probably guessed, the bill comes with the full backing of movie makers, theater owners and our beloved Motion Picture Association of America.

“Criminals are stealing, trafficking, and profiting off the investment that our workers devote to creating the quality films and TV shows that entertain a worldwide audience and bolster the American economy,” said MPAA lobbyist Michael O’Leary in a statement. He added: “We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for introducing this important legislation to standardize the legal treatment of online content theft and helping ensure that federal law keeps pace with the changing face of criminal activity.  We look forward to working with Members in the House and Senate towards its swift passage.”

Of course you do.

Andrew Couts
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Features Editor for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts covers a wide swath of consumer technology topics, with particular focus on…
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