WASHINGTON – Today, bipartisan legislation by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and David Perdue (R-Ga.) that will punish large-scale criminal streaming services that willfully and for commercial advantage or private financial gain offer to the public illicit services dedicated to illegally streaming copyrighted material will be signed into law. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act was included in the year-end spending package that is expected to be signed into law this week.
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, noncommercial activities, or in any way impact individuals who access pirated streams or unwittingly stream unauthorized copies of copyrighted works. Individuals who might use pirate streaming services will not be affected.
“Americans increasingly rely on streaming to enjoy their favorite 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.”
“The shift toward streaming content online has resulted in criminal streaming services illegally distributing copyrighted material that costs the U.S. economy nearly $30 billion every year, and discourages the production of creative content that Americans enjoy,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud this commonsense 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 organizations 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 U.S. 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.”
“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 commonsense agreement is set to pass Congress and become law before the end of this year.”
Bill text is available here.
Streaming has become the primary way that audiences consume entertainment. It has also become a major form of piracy. Last year, one study reported that digital video piracy costs the U.S. economy $29.2 billion a year. Streaming piracy touches numerous creative sectors, including major motion pictures, television programs, music, audiobooks, live sports, and pay-per-view programming.
Under current law, only violations of the reproduction and distribution rights of copyright owners can be charged as felonies, while criminal infringement via streaming (or “publicly performing”) can only be charged as a misdemeanor. This is known as the streaming loophole – and it is particularly harmful to the U.S. economy because streaming has become the most common form of criminal copyright infringement.
This bipartisan, consensus legislation will provide the Department of Justice with the authority to bring felony charges against a digital transmission service that: