Anti-piracy legislation targeting commercial streaming websites that illegally make available copyrighted material was included in the colossal omnibus spending bill Congress passed Monday.
President Trump is poised to sign the spending package into law this week, at which point operators of illegal, for-profit streaming websites will risk heightened criminal penalties if caught.
The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act was proposed earlier this month as bipartisan legislation supported by 11 senators led by Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, and Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat.
Its language was later included within the 5,593-page appropriations package cleared by Congress this week alongside $900 billion in stimulus relief compelled by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Trump is set to sign the bill into law soon, putting the anti-piracy legislation on the books and effectively closing whats its sponsors in the Senate described as an existing “streaming loophole.”
Currently, operators of websites caught streaming protected material without permission can only be charged with misdemeanor copyright infringement. The new legislation allows them to face felony charges.
“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,” Mr. Tillis said.
“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,” he said.
Senators announced the act on Dec. 10, and its inclusion in the appropriations package caused it to clear both sides of Congress in a span of just 11 days.
“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,” Mr. Leahy said in a statement. “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.”
Other senators listed as co-sponsors when the act was first announced include Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas and Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both of Georgia, as well as Democratic Sens. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Chris Coons of Delaware and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.
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