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.

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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.

  • Stephen Michael French

    In short, the copyright laws we have today are for the protection of an outdated, obsolete entertainment industry machine. There are plenty of REAL artists who are willing to create for the sake of the art itself, and have been doing so forever. What you call "piracy" I call opportunity.

    This war is about destroying hollywood to make room for a whole new breed of artists, who do not need mansions and butlers to create great works of art for everybody.

    I pray that people copy and share my art. I want to reach the widest audience possible.

  • Stephen Michael French

    The copyright laws you hold so dear were not written for artists. They were not written by artists (nor by the artist's lawyers) they were written BY companies like Disney. And they were written to protect those companies profits. The copyright laws that we have today are destroying the creative process, not "protecting" it. Yes, as you say; "Most Hollywood films cost millions of dollars to make", mostly because the "celebrity value" of the actors, directors, writers, involved commands a price well beyond any relation the actual work they do, or the skills they have. What you conveniently ignore is the difference between how much money a Hollywood production will pour in to a film, versus how much it can cost anyone else to make a decent movie. The state of technology regarding video and audio equipment, vid/audio editing software, digital special effects, has progressed to the point where nearly anyone can afford the tools to make a decent quality movie. And with the internet, we have the means to find and communicate with actors, directors, and all other crew with the skills to make an entertainment "product" whose overall quality is as good or better than what Hollywood produces for us. And with an internet that is subject to net neutrality and free of your insane copyright law we ALL have the tools necessary to distribute and advertise a movie to just as many people as Hollywood. As an audio artist, I BEG for people to "pirate" my music, copy and spread it, post it up EVERYWHERE. Because what I want as an artist, is to reach the biggest possible audience. "if Hollywood stole your video without permission.." is simply not the same thing as pirates uploading a Hollywood movie for free: when hollywood plagiarises an unknown artist's work (and they do!) they claim credit for making it, and they lock it up and demand money to see it. When "pirates" "steal" a copy of that work, they claim no credit of creation, share it with everybody, and generally don't charge a dime. What you fail to realise is that modern technology, and a free and open internet has completely changed the economic paradigm of art and entertainment. It has put all the tools in the hands of the common people, so that ANYONE with the desire and skill to do so can truly compete with the giants of Hollywood in a truly free, open market, and under those circumstances, Hollywood as we know it, can not survive. There are plenty of great artists in this world who have been "competing" with the likes of Hollywood for decades, and they will be happy to see it burn.

  • Jack Spencer

    How are they going to enforce this at the viewing end? Streams are almost untraceable through a router. You might have hundreds of routers on a city block. Good luck with your law.

  • Mike Poole

    Interesting article!

  • Benjamin Knapic

    How is streaming a felony? Stereo-typical government corporatism. It's economics 101 people. Digital matter is a non scarce good. If I'm streaming a movie, does that mean that someone somewhere else has any less movie? No, of course not. If I take a dvd from the store, that store has one less dvd. It can only exist in one place at one time. Therefore, if I have the dvd, it means the store can't have it. However, if I download or stream something, I'm not preventing anyone else from having it.

  • James

    If the government is willing to stand in for these companies to protect their products then the government should also be willing to step in to prevent american made companies.. (companies built by the blood and sweat of the american or any other contry for that matter) jobs and providing serious penalties for both these actions would be just and fair. However if you look at it that is not going to happen. I have pirated for a long time.. Main reason It is hard for a person in todays economy or my life situation to afford these things however I was young and naive. I believe that we should pay for and support companies work we admire. If you look at the music industry and see the downward spiral they have had due to piracy it leads me to believe that I had a part in its downfall. I strive to purchase legitemately all material I now own. In the rare instance I have to pirate something do to limited means it is now few and far between. the government needs to quit working for the highest bidder and start working for the people as a whole as we have put them in office to do.

  • Aaron

    Overall, I'm ok with this idea, but I would like to see it taken in a slightly different direction. You know how we have tv, right? why not make an internet TV provider, per say, except that it would include overseas programs. Many of the internet videos I've watched online were filmed overseas and would never have made their way to me if not for fansubbing/uploading. Even if I read a summary and liked a drama, finding a way to watch a subbed version of that drama is difficult. Crunchyroll has done a good job of what I just mentioned, but it would be nice to see something larger. I would pay for an internet tv of this type.

  • Darrell

    They need to pass a bill where they can shut down any site streaming pirated material until that material is removed.
    This would call for even more policing of sites like Youtube.

  • shane

    Sounds like the government over stepping it bounds to me .. MMM what else are they gonna try and control next ,, how kids u can have what u can drive ? yea thats where this is going

  • Shane Jeffers

    I think the government has no right getting in to big business , NEXT you tell me cause I am poor I cant live.Is this america mmm don't sound like it ,, Sounds like big company are making the law to me.. so u better send every one to jail that shares a song or a movie cause that's illegal mmmm really.. we should boy cot the movies then their so dam greedy.

  • Nick

    Great article! Finally someone with a common sense approach to this subject.

  • AJ

    Copyright is about ownership. If they own the content they have a right to ask for control. But I worry about excessive regulation. We have more important people to prosecute. It goes beyond right and wrong; it's a question how deeply invested the government needs to be to protect businesses who have their own resources to stop this stuff.