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Streaming Laws | Recent Changes to Streaming

Updated on
February 15, 2021
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we will be reviewing Changes to Streaming Laws Under the COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill and answer the questions of:

  • Did Congress Enact Changes to Illegal Streaming Laws Under the COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill?
  • What Are the Changes to Streaming Laws?
  • Who Is Impacted by the Changes Enacted by Congress?
  • What Does Congress Mean by for Commercial Profit?
  • What Kind of Penalties are Associated with the Updated Illegal Streaming Provisions?
  • What Do These Changes Mean to the Average Citizen?
  • Is It Now Illegal to Share Passwords or Streaming Accounts with Friends/Family?

The popularity of streaming and digital platforms has increased dramatically over the years. As media has moved towards digital streaming, the illegal use of that media has increased as well. To combat the illegal use of copyrighted materials, Congress has enacted several modifications to the anti-piracy laws and increased the potential penalty for any violation.

Did Congress Enact Changes to Illegal Streaming Laws Under the COVID-19 Relief Bill?

Yes, contained within the newest COVID-19 Economic Relief bill is a section aimed at revamping the anti-piracy legislation to account for the rapid changes in the digital media landscape.

What Are the Changes to Streaming Laws?

Congress enacted changes to codify increased penalties for illegally streaming or sharing media, especially digital media for a profit. The new changes also provide clarity related to what kind of media is covered under the pre-existing title 17 protections. Additionally, Congress has upgraded the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Who Is Impacted by the Changes Enacted by Congress?

All citizens are covered by this legislation, but the aim of the provisions is to target individuals or corporations that are operating illegal streaming platforms or illegally providing copyrighted digital content for a commercial profit. Congress is seeking to eliminate the websites that are:

  • primarily designed for or providing illegally streamed copyrighted content; or
  • has no other significant purpose than illegally streaming copyrighted content; or
  • is purposefully being used to market or increase use of illegal streaming services.

What Does Congress Mean by for Commercial Profit?

In this instance, a commercial profit is any income generated because of improperly operating an illegal streaming platform or illegally providing copyrighted digital content.

What Kind of Penalties are Associated with the Updated Illegal Streaming Provisions?

If you should be found guilty of engaging in operating an illegal streaming platform, Congress has deemed this action to be a felony offense. Conviction under the update statutory terms include graduating penalties as follows:

First offense, a fine and up to 3 years in prison or; a fine and up to 5 years in prison, if the media was being prepared for a commercial public performance and the violator knew or should have known it was being prepared for a commercial public performance.

Second and any subsequent offenses, a fine not exceeding $30,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

What Do These Changes Mean to the Average Citizen?

These modifications should not have a major impact on the average citizen. The aim of this legislation is to eliminate illegal streaming platforms that operate for a profit. Assuming that you are conducting normal streaming activity and paying for the appropriate streaming platform the direct impact on average citizens should be nominal. It is important to note that if you are operating a website for profit or a website that is tied to a business, you may be liable for improperly using copyrighted materials. It is very important to be wary of any images or content that you load to your web presence that you did not create or obtain a license to.

This update to the law does not change the provisions which prohibit accessing illegally streamed content. You are still required to pay for the appropriate licensing to watch the media content. If you should be engaged in consuming illegally streamed content the penalties have not changed and you are still subject to the fines for copyright violations but there is not a criminal offense attached to it.

Is It Now Illegal to Share Passwords or Streaming Accounts with Friends/Family?

No, so long as you are following the guidelines provided by the respective streaming service you have likely not committed any violations of the copyright act so long as you are not selling access to those accounts.


Streaming Laws | Recent Changes to Streaming
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

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