In the midst of the proposal of the COVID-19 Stimulus Bill, Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican member of Congress from North Carolina, has included an updated legislation draft for the Digital Copyright Act of 2021 which would focus on streaming piracy services, according to Pitchfork. Currently, the United States possesses existing legislation in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but was passed into law in 1998 and is considered to be outdated.
In the newly proposed legislation, Tillis aims to center focus on the commercial consumption of illegal streaming content and its economic effect. “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 Tillis via his office’s website. Currently, the proposed reform would heighten the misdemeanor classification of “criminal infringement via streaming” to a felony charge, according to the senator’s website. Its current classification as a misdemeanor has acted as a forum for some internet users to bypass criminal infringement laws through streaming with a less significant charge attached. These streaming sites would include illegal streaming of television shows on unauthorized websites to display copyrighted material and content such as Jetflicks or freetvproject.
Tillis has released the full text of the drafted bill which outlines the actions which would elicit felony charges that can be brought against offenders. These actions include a “digital transmission service that is primarily designed or provided for the purpose of streaming copyrighted works without the authority of the copyright owner or the law,” as well as having “no commercially significant purpose or us either than to stream copyrighted works without the authority of the copyright owner or the law” and the streamer “intentionally marketed by or at the direction of that person to promote its use in streaming copyrighted works without the authority of the copyright owner or the law,” via Tillis’ website.
The main focus of the proposed legislation concerning streaming is the “commercial, for-profit streaming piracy services” and “specifies that it doesn’t apply to people who use illegal streaming services or individuals who access pirated streams or unwittingly stream unauthorized copies of copyrighted works,” via CNN. The reform to the copyright infringement laws includes possible sentencing of up to ten years. This proposed reform is included in a 5,000-page long COVID-19 Stimulus Bill and is another example of a bill being added on to a larger bill in order to garner support and ultimately pass into law.
The current reform of the DMCA is a bipartisan effort “from five Democratic senators and four Republicans” including Tillis, according to CNN. However, the fate of the bill is reliant on President Donald Trump’s ultimate decision of whether or not to veto the overall COVID-19 Stimulus bill in addition to a Congressional override of a potential veto from the President.
UPDATE December 28:
President Trump has signed the COVID-19 Stimulus Bill into law which signifies that the reform to the Digital Copyright Act will take place in the near future.