The government is continuing its fight against online piracy, this time attempting to clarify a law to include specific mentions of video streaming. Currently, it's a felony to download pirated content, or to reproduce it… or sell it. But there's no specific language regarding video streams. Now, however, a Senate panel has OK'd a bill that will spell out that streaming pirated content–as a viewer–is also a felony crime.
It's apparently live-streaming-legal day. First we had the Netflix lawsuit over a lack of captions on streams, and now we have the U.S. Senate attempting to crack down a bit on the ways that illegal streams contribute to piracy.
Now, before everyone goes running around like recently-beheaded chickens… this is just one panel in the Senate approving the measure. It's not a new law… it's not an official bill. And it has a very, very long way to go before that happens.
While most of the consumer reaction to this new bill that I've seen online is negative, I'm not sure I understand why. If I watch some streaming video online of a pay-per-view event… I know I'm breaking the law. Should I really be surprised to see the government trying to make this behavior's illegality a little bit clearer?
Currently, there's little to stop a user from setting up a streaming video account at one of the many services and then filming the next big boxing match and streaming it to the web. That allows the poorer boxing fans out there–the ones not able to afford the high pay-per-view fee–a chance to see the fight, provided they aren't terribly picky about video quality.
But just because it's possible, doesn't mean it's legal or ethical. Because it's not. The opponents of this bill will tell you that it's not any different than that user simply inviting friends over to his house to watch the pay-per-view fight on his giant HD television. But those people are wrong, and they're also a little stupid. Because there is a huge difference between letting a friend sit on my couch to watch a fight I paid for and letting thousands watch that fight. A huge difference.
It's time for the Internet to grow up and realize that we don't get to have any and everything we want for free just because we whine loud enough. Most Hollywood films cost millions of dollars to make, and yet there is a huge portion of the web-surfing public that sees no wrong in piracy. There's a growing opinion that because so many people are doing it… it should be legal. Fine. You're entitled to that opinion. Just don't come crying to me when they hit you with a felony charge.
Hollywood has every right to fight for their copyright, just as you have for your own original video content–and believe me, if Hollywood stole your video without permission, you'd be shocked, indignant, and angry. And Congress has a duty to help craft laws that protect those rights. Just because we're enjoying some free "paid" programming by latching onto illegal streams doesn't mean we're in the right. There's really nothing defensible at all about piracy.