A piece of legislation has been added to the much-awaited Covid-19 stimulus bill, passed by the US Congress after months of negotiation, that severely punishes streamers who pirate large amounts of copyrighted content. Earlier this month, Senator Thom Tillis, chairman of the senate judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property, introduced the ‘Protecting Lawful Streaming Act’ which provides for up to 10 years of imprisonment in case of multiple violations.
However, the law doesn’t target casual internet users who use illegal streaming services or “access pirated streams or unwittingly stream unauthorized copies of copyrighted works.” Tillis’ office had stated that it “would apply only to commercial, for-profit streaming piracy services.” The bill has been co-sponsored by five Democratic and four Republican senators.
“The shift toward streaming content online has resulted in criminal streaming services illegally distributing copyrighted material that costs the US economy nearly $30 billion every year, and discourages the production of creative content that Americans enjoy,” Tillis had said in a statement.
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The Republican senator highlighted that the legislation is narrowly targeted to punish criminal organisations, adding that no individual streamer has to worry about the fear of prosecution. He said the bipartisan legislation also has support from two groups including Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group.
In a separate statement, Public Knowledge said that although there is no need for further criminal penalties for copyright infringement, the bill is “narrowly tailored” and avoids criminalising casual internet users who may click on a link, or upload a file. Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge, stated that the law also does not criminalise streamers who may include unlicensed works as part of their streams.
“We appreciate Senator Tillis’ decision to release the text of his proposal, and his leadership in bringing in consumer groups to the table, listening to our concerns, and working to prevent risk to end users and legitimate streamers and streaming platforms,” Rose added.