According to Politico offshoot Protocol, the felony streaming proposal is the work of Republican senator Thom Tillis, who has backed similar proposals previously. It is more or less exactly what it sounds like: A proposal to turn unauthorized commercial streaming of copyrighted material—progressive policy publication The American Prospect specifically points to examples like “an album on YouTube, a video clip on Twitch, or a song in an Instagram story”—into a felony offense with a possible prison sentence. Currently, such violations, no matter how severe, are considered misdemeanors rather than felonies, because the law regards streaming as a public performance. With Twitch currently in the crosshairs of the music industry, such a change would turn up the heat on streamers and Twitch even higher—perhaps to an untenable degree. Other platforms, like YouTube, would almost certainly suffer as well.
“A felony streaming bill would likely be a chill on expression,” Katharine Trendacosta, associate director of policy and activism with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The American Prospect. “We already see that it’s hard enough in just civil copyright and the DMCA for people to feel comfortable asserting their rights. The chance of a felony would impact both expression and innovation.”
According to Protocol, House and Senate Judiciary Committees have agreed to package the streaming felony proposal with other controversial provisions that include the CASE act, which would establish a new court-like entity within the U.S. Copyright Office to resolve copyright disputes, and the Trademark Modernization Act, which would give the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office more flexibility to crack down on illegitimate claims from foreign countries.
Alongside the felony streaming proposal, these provisions have drawn ire from civil rights groups, digital rights nonprofits, and companies including the aforementioned Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, the American Library Association, and the Center for Democracy & Technology. Collectively, these groups and others penned a letter to the U.S. Senate last week.
It’s incredible that not only does copyright stifle competition, but it allows a creator to create something once, get lucky and then sit on his / her arse for the rest of their lives – and their childrens’ doing sweet fuck all and raking in dosh. And that these laws get stronger and stronger for the people who do pretty much nothing.