Legislation Introduced to Make Online Content Streaming a Crime

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Fri, 05/13/2011 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee have introduced legislation that would classify the illicit online streaming of copyrighted content a felony and bring it into line with other forms of content theft. An entertainment industry coalition including the Independent Film & Television Alliance the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners praised the bill for reconciling the current legal disparity between the unlawful distribution of content through streaming and peer-to-peer downloading. “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.” says John Fithian president and CEO of NATO. “We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn and recommend bipartisan support for the passage of this important legislation.” “The illegal streaming of copyrighted content is a scourge on the independent film and television community particularly the small and medium-sized businesses without the resources to effectively enforce their intellectual property rights says Jean Prewitt IFTA president & CEO. “We strongly believe government enforcement and consequences are the only effective remedies for these types of illegal activities. We highly commend Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for this significant legislative proposal to ensure illegal streaming is treated as seriously under the law as is illegal downloading. Michael O’Leary executive vice president government affairs for the MPAA added: “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. The online distribution mechanisms utilized by thieves may differ but to the 2.4 million American workers whose livelihoods depend on our industry the end result of content theft is the same: lost jobs declining incomes and reduced health and retirement benefits for them and their families. 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.” Under current federal law a legal distinction exists between illegal streaming and downloading – two methods of distributing the same stolen digital content.  This legislation would make the illegal streaming of copyrighted works a felony thereby standardizing its criminal classification with that of illegal peer-to-peer downloading already a felony.  In March the Office of U.S. 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.