Key Senate Committee Approves Bill Making Illegal Streaming of Movies and Tv a Felony

“The illegal streaming of motion pictures and television programming is as financially devastating for our industry as is illegal downloading,” said Jean Prewitt, IFTA President & CEO.  “Stealing is stealing, regardless of the means in which the product is being received. This legislation is a critical step forward in the piracy fight and we commend the Committee for their support.”

WASHINGTON
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Film and television makers, distributors and exhibitors today thanked the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving legislation that would classify the illegal online streaming of copyrighted content a felony, and bring it into line with other forms of content theft.
The Commercial Felony Streaming Act (S. 978), sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX), would reconcile the current legal disparity between the unlawful distribution of content through streaming and peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading.  An entertainment industry coalition, including the Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®), the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) applauded the Committee for its work and urged the Senate to quickly pass the bill.
“The illegal streaming of motion pictures and television programming is as financially devastating for our industry as is illegal downloading,” said Jean Prewitt, IFTA President & CEO.  “Stealing is stealing, regardless of the means in which the product is being received. This legislation is a critical step forward in the piracy fight and we commend the Committee for their support.”
“We commend the Committee for moving this important piece of legislation for consideration by the Senate,” said NATO President and CEO John Fithian. “It will close a gaping hole in the law and go far in protecting the livelihoods of theater employees from the threat posed by illegal streaming.”
“To the technicians, designers, construction workers, and artists who support their families through their work in entertainment, there’s no difference between illegal downloading and illegal streaming – it’s all theft that hurts their work, their wages and their benefits.  There should be no difference in the law, either,” said Michael O’Leary, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs for the MPAA.  “This bill will help ensure that the punishment for these site operators fits the crime, and we look forward to continuing to work with Members in the Senate and House towards its swift passage.”
Under current federal law, a legal distinction exists between illegal streaming and downloading – two methods of distributing the same stolen, digital content. In March, the Office of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel presented Congress with legislative recommendations to improve IP enforcement efforts, which included clarifying this aspect of intellectual property law.
The Commercial Felony Streaming Act would make the illegal streaming of copyrighted works a felony, thereby standardizing its criminal classification with that of illegal P2P downloading, already a felony.  These are different technologies, but criminals use them for the same purpose: stealing content made by hundreds of people who support their families by working in the entertainment industry.  The bill would apply only in cases in which a website operator has willfully and knowingly violated a copyright and profited from it, and does not allow law enforcement to prosecute people who stream videos without intending to profit – a parent sharing a video of her child with friends and family, for example.
About IFTA®
The Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) is the global trade association of the independent motion picture and television programming industry. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization represents and provides significant entertainment industry services to more than 150 member companies from 23 countries, consisting of independent production and distribution companies, sales agents, television companies, , and institutions engaged in production finance. 
Collectively, IFTA’s members produce more than 400 independent films and countless hours of television programming each year and generate more than $4 billion in distribution revenues annually. The organization is also widely recognized for producing the American Film Market® (AFM®), the world's largest motion picture trade event held each November in Santa Monica. 
About NATO
The National Association of Theatre Owners is the largest exhibition trade organization in the world, representing more than 30,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and additional cinemas in 50 countries worldwide. 
About the MPAA
The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) serves as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries from its offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Its members include: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Universal City Studios LLC; and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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