The US Congress has passed a Covid-19 stimulus bill which contains an anti-piracy proposal that would punish for-profit, illegal streaming services with felony penalties of up to 10 years in jail.

The proposal came from Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who sought to increase the penalty for operating a for-profit illegal streaming service.

The bipartisan legislation led by Tillis and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and co-introduced by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), David Perdue (R-GA), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) that will punish large-scale criminal streaming services that wilfully and for commercial advantage or private financial gain offer to the public illicit services dedicated to illegally streaming copyrighted material is expected to be signed into law this week. The Act was included in the year-end spending package

The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act will apply only to commercial, for-profit streaming piracy services. The law will not sweep in normal practices by online service providers, good faith business disputes, non-commercial activities, or in any way impact individuals who access pirated streams or unwittingly stream unauthorised copies of copyrighted works. Individuals who might use pirate streaming services will not be affected.

“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,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud this common-sense legislation that was drafted with the input of creators, user groups, and technology companies will become law so we can target criminal organizations and ensure that no individual streamer has to worry about the fear of prosecution. I want to thank Senator Leahy and Representatives Martha Roby and Ben Cline for their early partnership on this important issue.”

“At a time when an unprecedented number of Americans are streaming movies and TV shows, music and books, criminal organisations are exploiting a loophole in copyright law to steal online content at an unprecedented rate and with hardly a consequence,” said Senator Leahy. “Commercial piracy costs the economy billions of dollars and hurts both the creative community and consumers. This narrow bill closes this loophole by targeting only commercial, for-profit criminal piracy, and I am proud to have supported it.”

“Large-scale digital piracy costs the US economy billions of dollars every year. Because our laws failed to keep up with technology, perpetrators of this crime avoided serious consequences,” Senator Hirono said. “I’m glad to have worked with my colleagues to bring piracy laws into the modern age, and protect our creators without harming Internet users.”

This bipartisan legislation will close loopholes that allow commercial piracy services to illegally stream billions of dollars in copyrighted content each year,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to support common sense legislation that will hold these bad actors accountable while protecting individual internet users and legitimate streaming sites.”

“Americans increasingly rely on streaming to enjoy their favourite music, sporting events, movies, television shows, audiobooks, and other forms of entertainment content, particularly during this pandemic,” said Senator Coons. “For too long, large-scale, criminal enterprises have taken advantage of a loophole in CD and DVD-era copyright laws to engage in unprecedented digital piracy, which costs our economy billions of dollars and threatens the livelihoods of our creative community. I am proud that Congress passed this targeted bill, which empowers the Department of Justice to prosecute large-scale, for-profit streaming piracy services, and I appreciate the collaborative effort by content owners, technology companies, public interest groups, and others to ensure that this legislation cannot be used to target internet users or legitimate streaming platforms.”

“This year especially, Americans have benefited from being able to access a wide range of movies, TV shows and educational content from their own homes,” said Senator Loeffler. “Unfortunately, the ease and availability of this programming are threatened by large-scale criminal enterprises that illegally stream copyrighted materials at the cost to the economy of billions of dollars a year. I am glad this common-sense agreement is set to pass Congress and become law before the end of this year.”

News Source: Advanced Television