US COVID-19 relief bill to make copyrighted content streaming a felony

The $300/week unemployment legislation includes a clause that will make streaming of protected content a punishable crime.

The $300/weekly unemployment legislation includes a clause that will make streaming of protected content a punishable crime.

The US Congress has passed a new COVID-19 stimulus bill proposed by Senator Thom Tillis. Overall, the bill is geared towards offering a relief package to those affected by the pandemic. However, the bill also contains an anti-piracy proposal. It is this proposal that is gathering much attention ever since the bill has passed.

The COVID-19 Relief Bill

The over 5,000-page long Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 is a House amendment bill that puts into effect a new law that will extend unemployment benefits by $300 per week until March 2021. The bill also proposes to establish a Copyright Claims Board for small claims. Additionally, it drops a bombshell on those who offer or facilitate illegal streaming of copyrighted content.

Four Republicans and five Democratic senators supported the bipartisan bill. Moreover, it has support from two other groups: a consumer advocacy group and the other is Public Knowledge.

10-year Punishment for Illegal Streaming

According to the newly passed bill , digital transmission of copyrighted or protected works will become a punishable crime. The accused may be imprisoned for up to ten years for a second offense, along with getting fined. They can be punished for multiple crimes.

Sen. Tillis wrote about this particular suggestion that the legislation was drafted after consulting user groups, creators, and tech firms. It is “narrowly targeted so that only criminal organizations are punished and that no individual streamer has to worry about the fear of prosecution.”

US COVID-19 relief bill to make copyrighted content streaming a felony

The bill states that:

“It shall be unlawful for a person to willfully, and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, offer or provide to the public a digital transmission service.”

The bill proposes that only those services that are designed or offered for the sole purpose of publicly performing protected works through digital transmission without the consent of the copyright owner.

It also applies to streaming services providers who perform intentional marketing themselves or upon the direction of another individual to promote the use of illegal streaming of works protected under title 17 without the copyright owner’s consent.

“If a violator is prosecuted, they could be imprisoned up to 10 years for multiple offenses, and they could be fined,” the bill stated.

What About Streaming Platforms?

The bill will be particularly concerning for those involved in the online streaming of videos and games like Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming. That’s because influencers often showcase games involving copyright issues or use licensed music in their videos.

However, this Act will be mainly applicable to for-profit and commercial streaming piracy services. It won’t affect normal online practices of service providers, especially non-commercial and good faith business activities.

According to Sen. Tillis, online content streaming has caused considerable damage to the US economy.

 “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.” Sen. Tillis stated. 

Will it Affect Users?

Although the copyright law may negatively affect game streamers, the average user doesn’t need to worry about it. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act from the North Carolina-based Republican doesn’t target all internet users. It specifically states that the law doesn’t apply to users of illegal streaming services or people who access pirated streams.

It also doesn’t impact those who “unwittingly stream unauthorized copies of copyrighted works.” Instead, it focuses on for-profit, commercial piracy services, which refers to firms that earn profit through illegal streaming of protected material/content.

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