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10 years in jail for unauthorized streaming? It is in the relief bill for Covid-19

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A new law that severely punishes streamers that pirate large amounts of copyrighted content are tucked away in the more than 5,000-page long Covid-19 stimulus bill.

You actually have nothing to worry about: the “Protecting Lawful Streaming Act,” which Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, introduced earlier this month, does not target casual internet users. The law notes that it does not extend to people using illicit streaming platforms or “individuals who access pirated streams or unwittingly stream unauthorized copies of copyrighted works.”

Instead, it focuses on “commercial, for-profit streaming piracy services” that make money from copyrighted content being illegally streamed.

Tillis said the activity costs the US economy about $30 billion annually.

“This commonsense legislation was drafted with the input of creators, user groups, and technology companies and is narrowly targeted so that only criminal organizations are punished and that no individual streamer has to worry about the fear of prosecution,” he wrote in a statement.

They could be sentenced for several offenses for up to 10 years if a violator is charged, and they could be fined.
There is support for the compromise bill from five Democratic senators and four Republicans. It also has support from two organizations, including Public Awareness, a consumer protection organization, which called the bill “narrowly tailored” so that everyday internet users are not affected.

“We appreciate Senator Tillis’ decision to release the text of his proposal, and his leadership in bringing in consumer groups to the table, listening to our concerns, and working to prevent risk to end-users and legitimate streamers and streaming platforms,” Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel for Public Information, said in a statement.

“The National Association of Broadcasters said it “strongly supports” the law in a separate response.

The Department of Justice sued two Las Vegas computer programmers last year with unauthorized hacking of thousands of hours of Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu television shows and streaming them on websites called stream tall and Jetflicks. One man confessed to receiving from his piracy activities more than $1 million.

As soon as President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign the stimulus legislation this week, the “Protecting Lawful Streaming Act” will become a statute.

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