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The Ten Strikes Bill S.978: Illegal Streaming Punishable By 5 Years; Could Make Tubes Sites Illegal

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Looks like you could lose a piracy lawsuit and windup getting 5 years at the same time.

from www.bloomberg.com – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure June 16th that would make illegal streaming of video over the Internet a felony offense in some cases, sending the proposed legislation to the full Senate.

The bill, S. 978, would make illegal video streaming for commercial purposes a felony punishable by as much as five years in prison if it involves 10 or more instances of streaming copyrighted works over a 180-day period. The retail value of the video must exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must be worth more than $5,000.

The bill was introduced May 12 by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Christopher Coons, a Delaware Democrat.

“This isn’t about individuals or families streaming movies at home,” Klobuchar said in an e-mail after today’s vote. “It’s about criminals streaming thousands of dollars worth of stolen digital content and profiting from it.”

The Obama administration supported making illegal video streaming a felony “in appropriate circumstances” in a set of recommendations released March 15 for fighting the illegal sale of pirated products and content.

Maria Pallante, director of the U.S. Copyright Office, also backed making illegal streaming a felony in a June 1 House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, saying that treating the offense as a misdemeanor gives prosecutors little incentive to file charges in such cases.
$75 Billion Cost

Piracy of digital movies, music and software cost businesses from $30 billion to $75 billion in 2008 in the Group of 20 leading global economies, according to a February report commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce from Frontier Economics, a London-based consulting firm.

The Copyright Alliance, a Washington-based group whose members including Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc. (TWX) and Viacom Inc., said it “applauds” the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on the illegal streaming bill.

“The distribution of other people’s work without their permission should be punished the same way under the law regardless of the technology used,” Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, said in an e-mail.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital-rights group, is concerned that the measure may constrain free speech, Abigail Phillips, a senior staff attorney for the organization, said in an interview today.

“The more serious the potential penalties, the greater deterrent effect on innovation and speech activity online,” Phillips said.

She said it’s unclear whether the legislation would apply to websites accused of offering illegal video, people who upload illegal video to such sites, or people who “press play” to watch such videos online.

More info from www.riverfronttimes.com – :Bill S. 978 would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison. Specifically, it would incriminate those who disseminate (“publicly perform” in the language of the bill) copyrighted material ten or more times in a 180 day span. There’s some (understandable) hysteria surrounding this bill at the moment, so in an effort to help you cut through the subparagraphs and subsections, we thought we’d give you a user-friendly guide to understanding the bill, tracking its progress and, if you’re so inclined, alerting your Congressperson.

What the bill would do. Technically it’s not a new proposed law entirely but rather an amendment of the old one. Where before, it was technically illegal to “reproduce and distribute” copyrighted performance, the new amendment would widen the umbrella to include all forms of “public performance” of a copyrighted work. The simple way to think about this is that before, bit torrents and the like were clearly illegal. If this bill passes, YouTube would be as well.

And it wouldn’t just be YouTube — if you merely embed a copyrighted video without gaining proper consent, that falls under the definition of public performance as well. It’s more: kids singing karaoke to their favorite pop songs would be culpable. There is a caveat that hasn’t been as widely discussed: The amendment also includes language stipulating that the public performance ALSO have a total value to the copyright owner of $2,500 or have a license value over $5,000.

The problem there, of course, is that the value of an online video is totally speculative at this point: You can find objectivity in return on advertising on the video or music, but value to the copyright owner is a very different matter. How much, exactly, is an .mp3 worth? There’s clearly no one answer.

So this seems bad. The one thing to keep in mind here is that this is almost certainly never going to affect anyone but people trying to make a living expressly by streaming illegal content (pirates). The precedent for this sort of thing (inasmuch as there is one) suggests that regular internet users like you and me would never catch a whiff of attention for our public performance ways, even if we strike it big with a bedroom cover song. But we’d still technically be breaking the law (committing a felony, even), which we admit cannot be totally shooed away just because the cops probably wouldn’t show up.

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