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Illegal Streaming Bill Clears Senate Hurdle

16 Jun, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

A piece of legislation that would make it a felony to illegally stream copyrighted content online was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee June 16 and now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill, S. 978, would bring the penalties for illegal streaming of content in line with those for illegal downloading, and could land offenders in jail for up to five years. Websites that illegally stream copyrighted content 10 or more times during an 180-day period can be prosecuted if the bill becomes law.

“From the perspective of video retailers, a sale or rental lost because a potential customer already viewed the motion picture or television program from an infringing copy is just as damaging as a sale or rental lost because the customer viewed the motion picture or television program from an infringing public performance,” said Bo Andersen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, said when the bill was introduced, “It is high time that the punishment fit the crime. Illegal streaming of stolen content is growing and poses a threat to the profitability of movie theaters and to the jobs of our 160,000 employees in the U.S.”

The news comes as the Senate looks at another key piece of antipiracy legislation, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP. That legislation would give the Justice Department the right to file civil action against the registrant or owner of a foreign-registered domain name that deals in illegal content and would also prevent offending sites from using America’s Internet infrastructure, including ISPs, search engines and registrars.

A joint statement from the Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Screen Actors Guild and several other entertainment groups praised the progress of both bills.

“The Commercial Felony Streaming Act, together with the PROTECT IP Act that was also passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee three weeks ago, is critical to the ability of law enforcement to actively and effectively combat the online theft of our members’ work,” the statement read. “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.”

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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