Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Somehow, Congress' lackuster COVID-19 stimulus bill would make illegal streaming a felony

“Piracy. It’s A Crime” ad
“Piracy. It’s A Crime” ad
Screenshot: YouTube

While Congress can apparently only manage to find enough funds to give Americans in need a measly $600 via their new COVID-19 stimulus bill, one senator found the time to throw in a proposal to increase the penalties for those who stream unlicensed works. Republican senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina has convinced his colleagues to throw his anti-piracy proposal into the bill that is up for a vote today. If passed, illegal streaming could carry a penalty of up to 10 years in jail, says The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not the first time Congress has tried to clamp down on illegal streaming. In 2011, Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (the one who reportedly once ate a salad with plastic hanger) put forth a proposal similar to Tillis’ but it never moved forward after a non-profit somehow convinced people that Justin Bieber could face five years in prison if copyright laws were amended. No joke.

The major difference between Klobuchar’s and Tillis’ proposals is that the latter would target “commercial operators rather than users,” says THR—though, since the proposal was rushed into the bill, there hasn’t been a lot of time for the nuances to be analyzed.


The anti-piracy proposal is not the only entertainment-related bit of potential law that has made its way into the bill (since that’s what Congress should be spending its time doing while trying to theoretically help the millions left financial distraught thanks to the cornavirus pandemic). Also on the table is a small-claims adjudication option for copyright owners who previously had to go through an expensive federal court process to settle disputes, as well as an extension of Section 181, which THR describes as “a tax provision that allows for immediate deduction of television and film production costs up to $15 million.” The outlet reports that the incentive was scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but would now get an additional five years.

We’re all for combating piracy, but is now the time? Rather than screaming into the void about all the more pressing issues Congress could be focused on right now, we’re just gonna enjoy this guy’s remix of the song from the “Piracy. It’s A Crime” campaign.

A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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