Congress looks to provide relief to U.S. citizens and small businesses, but the omnibus bill includes some legislative priorities for the entertainment industry as well.
Providing relief via direct assistance and loans to struggling individuals and businesses hit hard by COVID-19 has been a priority for federal lawmakers this past month. But a gigantic spending bill has also become the opportunity to smuggle in some other line items including those of special interest to the entertainment community.
Perhaps most surprising, according to the text of the bill being circulated, illegal streaming for commercial profit could become a felony.
It’s been less than two weeks since Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) released his proposal to increase the penalties for those who would dare stream unlicensed works. In doing so, the North Carolina Senator flirted with danger. About a decade ago, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar made a similar proposal before it ended up dying as people worried about sending Justin Bieber to jail. (No, seriously.) This time, Tillis’ attempt was winning better reviews for more narrowly tailoring the provisions towards commercial operators rather than users. That said, it’s had very little time to circulate before evidently becoming part of the spending package. If passed, illegal streaming could carry up to 10 years in jail.
That’s not the only copyright change either.
The spending bill also appears to adopt a long-discussed plan to create a small claims adjudication system within the U.S. Copyright Office.