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Pirating Streamed Content to Become Felony

video piracy
(Image credit: iStock)

WASHINGTON—Illegally pirating streaming video could put guilty parties in jail thanks to a new bill. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act introduced by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was included in the omnibus spending bill of the COVID-19 relief bill that was passed by Congress on Dec. 21.

Under Tillis’ bill, any person that pirates video streams of copyrighted work will have committed a felony act and be subject to either fines or imprisonment. The previous penalty for pirating streaming content was a misdemeanor.

The bill targets large-scale, criminal, for-profit streaming services, not good faith business disputes or noncommercial activities. Nor does it target individuals who access the pirated streams, knowingly or unknowingly.

Streaming has become increasingly popular in the last few years, particularly in 2020 as the global pandemic has changed viewing habits as people have more time during lockdowns. This new bill brings the pirating of streamed content on the same level of other pirating efforts, including the illegal downloading of copyrighted content.

Co-sponsoring the bill with Tillis is Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.).

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith issued a statement saying the association strongly supports the passing of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act and how it is "tailored to deter large-scale copyright piracy while ensuring that legitimate licenses are not subject to potential prosecution."