Illegal Streaming Could Become a Felony Under New COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

Congress is expected to pass a massive COVID-19 stimulus bill within the next few days that will provide relief to movie theaters and live entertainment venues. Additionally, illegal streaming will become a felony, which is another win for studios. Getting relief to these businesses and individuals has been a priority for Congress over the past few weeks, with a deadline fast approaching to get everything signed off by the end of the year. This has also given them time to bring some special interest in underneath the radar.

According to the new bill currently being circulated, illegal streaming for commercial profit could become a felony. Republican North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis released his proposal to increase the penalties for illegal streaming less than two weeks ago, and it’s beginning to look like it will become a reality in the next few weeks. While Tillis used wording that specifically targets illegal streaming for commercial benefits, there is language within the bill for personal streaming too. If the bill passes in the coming days, illegal streaming of works including movies and musical pieces could carry up to 10 years in jail.

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The new COVID-19 stimulus bill also brings up trademark modernization. If passed, third parties will “be able to submit evidence during the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s consideration of trademarks.” Finally, there is the CASE Act, which “creates a small claims court for copyright holders to pursue.” This is the first time since 2012 that Congress has looked into the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that was heavily criticized by studios and consumers at the time. Congress ultimately shifted their priorities from online piracy to other things.

For now, it looks like movie theaters and live venues will be getting a much-needed $15 billion in COVID-19 aid and American households will be receiving another round of stimulus checks, though they won’t be $1,200 this time around. Instead, the one-time checks will be made out for $600, which has already caused some backlash across the country. This marks the first time since the spring that Congress has been able to agree on a stimulus package for the American public that has satisfied both parties. Large movie chains have been pleading with Congress since the first round of stimulus money ran out in the summer.

For now, it looks like COVID-19 stimulus bill will likely pass, along with the new copyright laws. Since the public health crisis started, the shift away from movie theaters and live concerts started. The focus has been placed on streaming and it looks like it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. With that being said, hopefully this new stimulus package will keep some businesses afloat during the winter as we approach the spring. You can go check out the massive 5,000+ page COVID-19 stimulus bill over at the House.gov website.

Kevin Burwick at Movieweb

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