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Senate Committee Votes to Make Illegal Streaming of Movies, TV a Felony

Courtesy Warner Bros.

The Commercial Felony Streaming Act is supported by AFTRA, the DGA, SAG and other Hollywood unions.

Moving to close a possible loophole in the laws against the pirating of movies, TV shows and other intellectual property, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved making illegal streaming of video over the Internet a felony in most cases. The proposed law will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

The Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S. 978), introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), reconciles a disparity between the current law and streaming of content and peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading.

This legislation is supported by the Obama administration and a broad entertainment industry coalition, including the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), AFTRA, Directors Guild of America, IATSE and SAG. Others who have pushed for passage include the MPAA, the  Independent Film & Television Alliance and the National Association of Theatre Owners.

"We commend the Committee for moving this important piece of legislation for consideration by the Senate. It will close a gaping hole in the law and go far in protecting the livelihoods of theater employees from the threat posed by illegal streaming,” says NATO President John Fithian. ”To the technicians, designers, construction workers, and artists who support their families through their work in entertainment, there’s no difference between illegal downloading and illegal streaming – it’s all theft that hurts their work, their wages and their benefits. 

"This bill will help ensure that the punishment for these site operators fits the crime,” says Michael O’Leary, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs for the MPAA.

"The illegal streaming of motion pictures and television programming is as financially devastating for our industry as is illegal downloading,” says IFTA President Jean Prewitt.  “Stealing is stealing, regardless of the means in which the product is being received.

The bill targets the illegal streaming of video for commercial purposes. The penalty is increased to up to five years in prison when it involves 10 or more instances of streaming over a 180-day period. The retail value of the streamed video must exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must be worth more than $5,000.

The bill follows the suggestion made two months ago by the White House Office of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement which urged Congress to make illegal streaming a felony.