New COVID-19 stimulus bill could make illegal streaming a felony

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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One of the biggest concerns about streaming becoming the new normal for movie viewing for audiences is that it will leave studios wide open to potential piracy. This was already a concern because illegal streaming is pretty common but with a move like Warner Bros. releasing their new films on the HBO Max streaming service in pristine quality, it might make it even more enticing for people to go the illegal route to obtain films. This concern could be eased with the passing of the recent COVID-19 stimulus bill which is said to give the entertainment industry $15 billion and it could add new copyright laws that would make illegal streaming a felony.

According to the new bill, which just passed through the House and the Senate, there is language in place that could make illegal streaming for commercial profit a felony. Republican North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis released his proposal to increase penalties for illegal streaming less than two weeks ago and although Tillis used wording that specifically targets illegal streaming for commercial benefits, there is language within the bill for personal streaming as well. This would mean that illegal streaming of works including movies and musical pieces could carry up to 10 years in jail

The new bill also brings up trademark modernization. Third parties will "be able to submit evidence during the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's consideration of trademarks." There is also the CASE Act, which "creates a small claims court of copyright holders to pursue." Congress last looked into the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) back in 2012 and it was a bill that was heavily criticized at the time by studios and consumers. 

The bill appears to offer about $15 billion to movie theaters and live venues. This includes the Save Our Stages Act, which would be targeted to small- and medium- sized theaters and venues with 500 employees or less, and to those that lost at least 25% in revenue. It applies to multiple aspects of the live and theatrical business, including venue operators, promoters, producers, performing arts organizations, museum operators, and talent representatives. The relief bill will also include provisions so that a wider scope of newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations will be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans. That relief is aimed at smaller businesses, but a number of media outlets did not qualify because they are part of larger media companies. The bill is expected to include language to provide such loans to individual media outlets but not to their parent companies.

With the growing popularity of streaming, it makes sense that a provision would be added to try to minimize the use of it for illegal means. One has to wonder if this will really stop illegal streaming and piracy but this could be the stop in the right direction to make people think twice about doing it. Do YOU think making illegal streaming a felony will cause a decrease in piracy?

Source: Deadline

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