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COVID-19 Relief Package Includes Provision Making Illegal Streaming a Felony

on December 21, 2020, 4:01pm

As is often the case when it comes to massive legislation spanning thousands of pages of text, lawmakers attached some unrelated line items to the latest COVID-19 relief package. Chief among them, as The Hollywood Reporter points out, is a provision that makes illegal streaming a felony.

Introduced by North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis earlier this month, the “Felony Streaming” copyright proposal attaches felony penalties to commercial platforms which are dedicated exclusively to streaming unlicensed works. If found guilty of such actions, operators of these platforms could face up to 10 years in prison.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar proposed similar legislation nearly a decade ago, but the bill was met with blowback as it left open the possibility for content creators — such as YouTubers who cover famous songs — to be targeted. Tillis’ provision specifically targets commercial operators.

The relief package also includes legislation creating a small claims adjudication system within the U.S. Copyright Office, which gives copyright owners the ability to seek recourse without having to go through a federal court system.

Of course, the real meat of the package is dedicated to providing financial relief to Americans impacted by the pandemic. For operators of independent concert venues, that means a $15 billion lifeline is finally on the way.