Senate clears illegal movies & TV shows streaming bill

MUMBAI: Film and television makers, distributors and exhibitors thanked the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving legislation that would classify the illegal online streaming of copyrighted content a felony, and bring it into line with other forms of content theft.

The Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S. 978), sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn, would reconcile the current legal disparity between the unlawful distribution of content through streaming and peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading.

An entertainment industry coalition, including the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) applauded the Committee for its work and urged the Senate to quickly pass the bill.

"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. This legislation is a critical step forward in the piracy fight and we commend the Committee for their support," said IFTA president & CEO Jean Prewitt.

"We commend the Committee for moving this important piece of legislation for consideration by the Senate. It will close a gaping hole in the law and go far in protecting the livelihoods of theater employees from the threat posed by illegal streaming," said NATO president and CEO John Fithian.

"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. There should be no difference in the law, either. This bill will help ensure that the punishment for these site operators fits the crime, and we look forward to continuing to work with Members in the Senate and House towards its swift passage," added MPAA executive vice president, government affairs Michael O’Leary.

Under current federal law, a legal distinction exists between illegal streaming and downloading – two methods of distributing the same stolen, digital content. In March, the Office of US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel presented Congress with legislative recommendations to improve IP enforcement efforts, which included clarifying this aspect of intellectual property law.

The Commercial Felony Streaming Act would make the illegal streaming of copyrighted works a felony, thereby standardizing its criminal classification with that of illegal P2P downloading, already a felony. These are different technologies, but criminals use them for the same purpose: stealing content made by hundreds of people who support their families by working in the entertainment industry. The bill would apply only in cases in which a website operator has willfully and knowingly violated a copyright and profited from it, and does not allow law enforcement to prosecute people who stream videos without intending to profit – a parent sharing a video of her child with friends and family, for example.

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