Spending Package That Included The Coronavirus Stimulus Increases Illegal Streaming Penalties

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The omnibus spending bill Congress passed Dec. 21, which included the coronavirus stimulus package, includes provisions that would make profiting from hosting illegally streamed unlicensed media a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to The Independent.

The latest iteration of the copyright legislation was introduced by Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, The Independent reported. A press release from Tillis’ office explained that his bill only punishes the hosts of illegal streams, and not their internet consumers. Tillis originally introduced his legislation as a standalone bill, the Protect Lawful Streaming Act, alongside five Democrat and four Republican cosponsors.

The original bill and rider do not target individual consumers of illegally-streamed content. The bill “is narrowly targeted so that only criminal organizations are punished and that no individual streamer has to worry about the fear of prosecution,” Tillis said according to the statement. (RELATED: Here’s What The $8.3 Billion Bill For Coronavirus Actually Does)

Congress has considered multiple bills in the past decade that would have created harsher punishments for the unlicensed use of copyrighted digital material. However, they failed or were withdrawn following public outcry and bipartisan criticism. The 2011 Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), sponsored by Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, was prominently opposed by Justin Bieber and his fans. The pop star’s fans ran a campaign suggesting that he would have been jailed under the SOPA legislation, since he rose to prominence covering popular music on YouTube.

Some legislators criticized Congress’s legislative priorities. Alluding to the COVID-19 relief spending package, Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted that congressional negotiators “[w]ouldn’t give working people a single penny more” despite their “corporate and government giveaways.”

Libertarian Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized the legislative process behind the spending package, complaining that they would not have enough time to read all of the bill’s provisions before voting on it.

Despite these concerns, Congress passed the two bills late Monday night with filibuster-proof majorities in both chambers.