Studios Poised For Legislative Win With Inclusion Of Provisions For Felony Streaming Penalties In Year-End Funding Package

The year-end, massive, 5,000-plus page government funding/Covid-19 relief package, expected to pass Congress in the next couple of days, includes a set of long-sought after copyright and content protection provisions, including a measure that will make it a felony to operate a pirated streaming service.

If the package passes, as expected, it will mark the first significant legislative win for Hollywood studios and other content companies in years. Legislation aimed at curbing piracy has been largely sidelined since 2012, when an industry push to pass legislation to try to curb online piracy, via the Stop Online Piracy Act, was met with an industry and user backlash. The bill was sidelined in the wake of a concerted internet campaign to protest the measure.

The new series of copyright and trademark provisions also have been met with some pushback from trade groups representing internet companies, but so far it hasn’t met anything like the kind of attention there was for SOPA.

The provisions in the legislation include:

Felony streaming. Establishes criminal penalties, including prison time, for those who “willfully, and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, offer or provide to the public a digital transmission service” that offers unauthorized movies and TV shows. Penalties include fines and sentences of up to three years, or five years if the offense involved one or more titles, and “the person knew or should have 7 known that the work was being prepared for 8 commercial public performance.”

CASE Act. Creates a small claims court for copyright holders to pursue . Participation, however, will be voluntary, and any of the parties can object and pursue cases in federal district court. The cases would be heard by a Copyright Claims Board established through the Copyright Office, and, in general, any damages awards would not exceed $15,000. Parties who pursue more than one claim in a proceeding would not be able to recover more than $30,000. Parties also would in most cases bear their own costs.

Trademark modernization. Third parties would be able to submit evidence during the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s consideration of trademarks.

More to come.


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