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The COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Makes Illegal Streaming a Felony

Bill School House Rocks

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) looks like he’s getting his wish as his legislation to increase the penalties for streaming unlicensed work is currently part of the desperately needed COVID-19 relief legislation being voted on today.

Tillis’ legislation is a bit different than the legislation of the past with a focus more on commercial operators than individual users. If passed, illegal streaming of works including movies and musical works could carry up to 10 years in jail.

The current relief legislation as a whole is being criticized for being dropped on elected officials to vote on and there not being given enough time to read it. This is surely just one example of unrelated legislation included.

The bill also features a plan to create a small claims adjudication system within the U.S. Copyright Office. The “claims court” would forgo judges for “claims officers.” These claims officers will be able to issue fines up to $30,000. The House Judiciary Committee called that amount “truly small” amount.

That is the culmination of years of work by advocates on behalf of copyright owners a way to deal with infringement outside of going through the court system. That may be unconstitutional and will likely be challenged as such if passed. The system gives the option as an opt-in and isn’t compulsory so there’s the belief it’ll pass a legal challenge due to that. The goal is to lead to a swifter resolution over takedowns of copyright material posted online. The DMCA is already a tool that’s widely abused and we’re sure this will be as well.

Known as the CASE Act, it had previously passed the House by a 410-6 vote before being blocked in the Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Legislation is often added to legsilation like the COVID-19 relief knowing that the legislation will likely pass and on their own, the legislation would not.

A vote will occur today on the legislation.

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