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COPYHYPE Counters Misconceptions about Senate Streaming Bill
Author:  Howard Gantman
Date:  07/06/2011

Great piece by COPYHYPE’s Terry Hart today clearing up some misconceptions that have been floating around about S.978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, a narrowly targeted bill aimed at criminals who steal and disseminate American-made movies, television shows, live sporting events, and other creative works.

Hart illustrates how the Commercial Felony Streaming Act will affect criminals engaged in massive copyright theft, and why fears that the bill will target users who post videos of lip-synching online are wrong.  “The bill is addressed toward only large-scale, commercial piracy, and the bill is drafted accordingly,” writes Hart. 

As Hart notes in his article, streaming copyrighted content is actually already illegal, but it’s classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony.  The Commercial Felony Streaming Act toughens the penalty for this behavior to close a loophole in current law that imposes weaker penalties for streaming illegal content than for downloading illegal content via peer-to-peer transfers.  Streaming and downloading are different technologies, but criminals are using them for the same purpose—stealing movies and TV shows made by the millions of men and women whose work in the entertainment industry helps support them and their families. 

Arguing the narrow scope of the bill, Hart asserts, “The language of the statute sets forth several bars to arbitrary and unreasonable application of the law, including its requirement of willfulness and the value necessary to trigger it.” 

Detailing the criteria used to determine “willfulness” and “value” in a criminal court, Hart concludes that only criminals will feel the impact of S. 978:

“To sum up, Bill S.978 can’t be used to prosecute the uses that many fear it applies to. It doesn’t change what conduct is legal and what conduct is illegal. It is designed to apply only to outright pirates who profit off the streaming of unauthorized copyrighted works, and the language reflects this design.”