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Two months ago, US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel produced her wishlist of changes to US law. One item in particular caught our interest—the suggestion that the online streaming of copyrighted content be bumped up to a full-scale felony. Late last week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced just such a bill.The text of S. 978 isn't yet available from the official THOMAS system, but Klobuchar's office sent us a copy of the brief bill. Under current law, "reproducing" and "distributing" copyrighted works are felony charges and cover P2P transfers and Web downloads. But streaming is a "public performance" rather than a "distribution"—and holding a public performance without a proper license is not a felony. S. 978 adds "public performance" to the felony list.Online streamers can now face up to five years in prison and a fine in cases where:They show 10 or more "public performances" by electronic means in any 180-day period andThe total retail value of those performances tops $2,500 or the cost of licensing such performances is greater than $5,000Movie makers and theater owners support the bill. Michael O'Leary, who heads up the MPAA's government affairs (read: lobbying) work, said in a statement that "criminals are stealing, trafficking, and profiting off the investment that our workers devote to creating the quality films and TV shows that entertain a worldwide audience and bolster the American economy... We thank Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn for introducing this important legislation to standardize the legal treatment of online content theft and helping ensure that federal law keeps pace with the changing face of criminal activity."
S. 978 adds "public performance" to the felony list.